Flash bulbs blinded Hermione as she struggled to leave the Diagon Alley café. Ron held her hand tightly and tried to help pull her through the throngs of people lining up to see two members of the Golden Trio, saviours of the wizarding world.
"Ron, hey—Ron, is it true you and Hermione are dating now?!" shouted a journalist right in Hermione's ear. Hermione winced at the volume.
They finally managed to squeeze past the media and then faced the next layer of the public—the fans. Hermione knew Ron absolutely loved his fame. She shot him a look giving him permission and he guiltily smiled, pulling out a quill to sign autographs for some young kids.
Sometimes, Hermione really regretted that they had saved the world from Voldemort. It was great that Voldemort was defeated, obviously, but Hermione's life had become so artificial and bothersome now. The effect of her fame had ruined so much of life. Never could she enjoy the solitude of a public library. She never knew if she was getting top marks in her higher education course on Magical Creatures because she worked hard or because her lecturers were also fans. Similarly, people that had wanted nothing to do with her at Hogwarts had suddenly become very interested in her and wanted to be friends.
Jaded by never knowing if people respected her for her, Hermione had become something of a hermit. For the most part, she avoided socialising. When she did get out-- she really only spent time with people she had known before the fame; like Harry, Ron, Ginny, Neville and Luna. At least she knew what they really thought of her. Or so she thought. She glanced sideways at Ron who was animatedly talking about her to a group of fans.
A couple of months ago, Ron had asked her out. He had never shown interest in her that way before. Not in all the years they had been friends. Hermione had a niggling suspicion that he was only dating her because it boosted their fame even more to be together. Ron caught her eye and smiled. Hermione forced a smile back, pushing her suspicions from her mind for now. Ron returned to her, taking her hand and apparating with her to his flat.
Ron leaned in to kiss her and she turned her head at the last minute, causing him to kiss her cheek instead. She wasn't sure why, but she her body still hadn't caught up to her mind in terms of adjusting to dating Ron. She didn't enjoy kissing him and certainly hadn't let him go any further so far. Maybe the Slytherins at Hogwarts had been right when they used to bully her and call her frigid.
Ron frowned at Hermione.
"What's up, 'Mione?" he asked, obviously trying not to sulk. Hermione sighed.
"I just tire of this fame. How am I supposed to do my big research project for my course when I can't go to the forest to observe wood nymphs without a hundred reporters trampling in and scaring them off? I can't even study in the library in town anymore," she said glumly.
"Ah, I wish I could help," Ron said, ambling off to pour himself a glass of water. He paused, thoughtful. "Actually I might be able to!"
"You have a way of getting rid of our flock of fans and media?" Hermione asked, raising an eyebrow.
"I do have a way for you to have a break from them and get your assignment done," Ron said, smiling triumphantly.
Hermione was dubious, but was desperate for any solution.
"I'm all ears," Hermione said eagerly.
"Bill and Fleur's place has been empty since they properly split up last month," Ron explained, "Bill was just saying the other day if I ever felt like getting away from it all I could go stay any time."
"Ron! That's fantastic! I could head down and stay there while I complete my thesis!" Hermione beamed, "Could I go down this weekend?"
"Sure, I mean I'll have to check with Bill, but I don't see why not," Ron shrugged, "Although you'll have to go without me. I got a try out for the Chudley Cannons. Turns out the coach is a fan of the Golden Trio."
"Ronald! Are you really cashing in on your fame to get a place on that team?" Hermione said in disbelief, "What if you don't really deserve it?"
"Hermione," Ron said, looking at Hermione like she was crazy, "It's the Chudley Cannons."
Hermione finished packing her trunk that weekend and apparated excitedly to Shell Cottage. It seemed quite romantic to her to be staying in a small, secluded seaside cottage while working on her academic career. She felt like a character from one of the old novels she used to read as a child.
She was so glad that Bill had agreed to let her stay there as long as she needed. Although, she would be paying him rent, so it wasn't entirely out of the generosity of his heart.
Hermione breathed in the fresh sea air deeply, greedily. She went inside, admiring the simple yet tasteful décor. Fleur might be cold and arrogant, but the woman really did have fantastic taste. Except Fleur wasn't cold and arrogant, a small voice reminded Hermione. Hermione rubbed at her scarred arm, remembering the caring and nurturing side of Fleur she had seen during the war when she had nursed her back to health.
She selected a bedroom with a nice view out to the ocean and then moved to the living room to begin to set out her numerous textbooks, tomes and papers that she was to use in her research project. She smiled contentedly at the total silence surrounding her. It was already blissful.
Hermione stayed for about a week without incident, walking in the woods each day to observe the wood nymphs in their natural habitat, before consulting the various texts she had inside and writing up her findings. On one particular morning, Hermione decided to reward herself with a lie in, sitting in bed with a novel and a cup of coffee. She was settling into a blissful morning when she suddenly heard the shower turn on in the cottage.
Blood running cold, Hermione grabbed her wand and jumped out of bed. She was just in a pair of cotton boxers and an old faded Weird Sisters tee, leaving her feeling even more vulnerable. She wracked her brains as to who it could be. Bill was currently working in a Scottish branch of Gringotts and Fleur was in France. Hermione crept her way down the hallway, wand at the ready when she heard a melodic humming.
Hermione yelped in surprise as Fleur walked out of the steamy bathroom, clad only in her underwear. At Hermione's yelp, Fleur saw Hermione and let out a scream.
"What are you doing in my house?!" Fleur exclaimed, eyes wide.
"I, erm, Bill is renting it out to me so I can do my Magical Creatures studies away from reporters and fans," Hermione said. She was trying her best to keep looking Fleur in the eyes but found herself taking in the visage that was Fleur's body. She was really toned and athletic, but also blessed with curves. Hermione blushed lightly and looked back up at Fleur's eyes which were now filled with rage. Oh Merlin, did she catch me looking at her body? Hermione inwardly cursed.
"Fucking Bill," Fleur exclaimed abruptly, walking back into the bathroom. She returned minutes later, skirt on and pulling a shirt over her head. Before Hermione could say anything in response, Fleur apparated away.
Confused, Hermione walked into the bathroom and turned off the still running shower. She wasn't sure what to do. Should she owl Bill? She wasn't sure she wanted to get in the middle of an argument between the newly separated couple. Hermione instead got changed and set to making herself some breakfast, reading over her notes patiently while she did so.
An hour passed and there was a crack as Fleur apparated back into the cottage. She still looked furious, but her face softened when she looked at Hermione.
"You can stay," Fleur said, "But this is my house. Bill agreed that I would have it in the separation and he would take our home in Scotland."
"Oh, but…" Hermione was confused.
"He likes to spite me," Fleur explained dismissively, "I was merely on holiday in France to see my family and to give him time to move his things out of here. I guess he thought it would annoy me."
"Oh… I'm sorry," Hermione said, suddenly uncomfortable at having been used in a fight between the two, "I can find somewhere else."
"Nonsense, it is fine, this cottage is perfectly spacious for the both of us and I will not distract your studies- I return to work next week."
"If you're sure, Fleur," Hermione said awkwardly. Fleur flashed her one of her million watt smiles and Hermione smiled weakly. She wasn't sure if she had ever actually spent any time alone with Fleur before in her life, apart from when Fleur healed her up after Bellatrix. Even then, she had been in and out of consciousness a lot.
"It is fine. Besides, we have not been able to catch up much since the war," Fleur smiled.
Hermione weighed up her options. She could return to London, but then she would have to deal with the media and her fans again. Plus, there was the awkwardness of her relationship with Ron. Were relationships supposed to feel this stifling and stagnant two months in? She supposed it would be awkward staying at Shell Cottage with Fleur, especially given the fact that Fleur hadn't even invited her. But then, she was studying better than she had since the war and she loved the location and being able to observe the local wood nymphs for her paper.
By the time she had settled on staying, she was alarmed to find that Fleur had already swept away and prepared two steaming cups of tea. She handed one to Hermione before sitting on a nearby sofa and tucking her legs under herself, watching Hermione intently like a proud house cat.
"So... D'you still have to work with Bill?" Hermione asked. Fleur smiled and sipped at her tea.
"Non, dieu merci," Fleur replied, "Since he transferred to the Glasgow branch of Gringotts we have not had to interact at all at work. Probably for the best as we are not exactly on amicable terms right now,"
"Oh…" Hermione wanted to pry, but she really didn't know Fleur so it seemed rude. She played with her mug of tea awkwardly.
"What are you doing these days, Hermione?" Fleur asked politely. Hermione had always found it incredibly hard to read Fleur, and today was no different. Her tone was perfectly neutral and her face impassive. Hermione genuinely could not tell if she was interested or bored.
"I'm in academics at the moment, working on a few post graduate research projects," Hermione replied.
"In?" Fleur prompted. Again, Hermione couldn't tell if she genuinely wanted to know.
"The study of Magical Creatures," Hermione replied, "At the moment I'm doing a project on wood nymphs. I found a colony not far from this cottage actually, its considerably sped up my work being able to observe the real thing."
"Hmn, Magical Creatures," Fleur said with a smile, finishing her tea abruptly and standing up, "Perhaps you can study me sometime."
She put down her empty mug on the table, not far from one of Hermione's textbooks, before suddenly sweeping out of the room.
Hermione was left leaning against the table, unsure what to think. Had she offended Fleur by saying her discipline was Magical Creatures? Had Fleur finally grown too bored of the conversation? Or was it nothing and the conversation had merely come to a natural end?
Hermione frowned and set her mug down on the table, unsure of how to read the blonde. She supposed it didn't matter, Fleur seemed perfectly fine to have her in the cottage and she had work to do. Hermione returned to her seat and pulled her papers back towards her.
Fleur's unreadability continued as the week progressed. Hermione was awkwardly unsure whether she had taken up residence in Fleur's preferred room or not, but Fleur didn't say anything and seemed to simply take another room, breezing in after a quick knock whenever she needed to retrieve anything that was in Hermione's room. Some days Fleur was around almost all the time, quietly sitting nearby, reading a book or drinking a tea in a sunbeam. Other days she was noticeably absent, appearing only just before bedtime to shower and slip into her room. Some days she was chatty, asking Hermione lots of questions about herself in that same polite tone. Other days she was reserved, barely speaking a word.
On one particular day, she was reserved and staying near to Hermione, stretched out on the sofa reading a French novel while Hermione scratched down her daily observations of the wood nymphs. Hermione finished and rested her quill, looking up at Fleur.
It was incredible, the effect of Veela blood. No matter what she did or how she positioned herself, her looks always appeared flawless and intentional. Hermione remembered seeing Fleur's mother at the Triwizard Tournament and at Bill and Fleur's wedding. Apolline Delacour was a half-blooded Veela, the Magical Creature blood stronger in her bloodstream. Although she was probably in her late forties or fifties, it gifted her with the looks of a twenty-something year old. Hermione wondered if Fleur would forever be suspended in young beauty like her mother.
Fleur stretched as she turned a page, her white tee rising up and revealing a toned midriff. Hermione couldn't help but stare. Fleur really was incredibly beautiful, thrall or no thrall. Thinking about Fleur's thrall Hermione wondered if perhaps Fleur understood how she felt. Like Hermione's fame, she would never know whether people genuinely wanted to know her or thought she was good at something. She would probably similarly be interrupted constantly by admirers or offered ridiculous offers-- like a try-out for a Quidditch team she was by no means qualified for.
Hermione considered this as her eyes roamed slowly over Fleur's body, down to her toned long thighs, up her stomach again, past her breasts, her long smooth expanse of neck. Suddenly Hermione reached Fleur's bright azure eyes, which locked with her own. Embarrassingly, Fleur had been watching her back for God knows how long. Hermione felt her cheeks burn and cleared her throat uncomfortably.
"Do you ever wonder if people actually like you for you or for your thrall?" Hermione asked, breaking the uncomfortable silence. Fleur's eyes stayed locked with hers.
"Of course, all the time," she replied, "But a lot of people dislike me for it too, so I suppose it evens out. I'm sure you would find the same with your fame."
Can she read my mind? Hermione thought to herself, alarmed.
"Oh, erm, yeah I suppose some people have been a bit jealous as well," Hermione replied, "But... How do you make people see you for who you actually are?"
Fleur laughed and Hermione was struck by how musical it sounded.
"You could try entering a Triwizard Tournament to prove yourself to everyone," Fleur smiled.
"Is that why you entered?" Hermione asked, curious. She had always assumed that Fleur's choice to enter was driven by ego, but this new explanation made sense.
"Partially," Fleur said with a small smirk, "But also I like a challenge."
Hermione found herself incredibly drawn to Fleur in that moment. Suddenly the unreadability and mystery around Fleur was piquing Hermione's curiosity more than it had all week. First her nurturing side during the war and now this 'prove 'em all wrong' side? There were so many layers to the blonde that Hermione had never seen before.
An owl swooped clumsily through an open window and onto her table of notes, snapping Hermione out of her reverie. She absentmindedly untied a letter from its leg, still watching Fleur, who had returned to reading her novel.
Reluctantly, she dragged her eyes down to the note.
" Hi 'Mione,
Great news, the Chudley Cannons all wanted my autograph and some photos! Unfortunately we ran out of time for me to try out, but they're willing to give me a shot in the coming week.
Was planning on coming down to see you and keep you company though. Are you okay if I stay up here a little longer before visiting? I mean, it's the Chudley Cannons.
Hermione looked up at Fleur before scribbling a reply on the bottom of the letter.
" Hi Ron,
No rush. I am studying almost all of the time anyway so you would probably find it boring. Good luck for your try-out!
Tying it back on the owl's leg, she sent it off again. She wasn't sure why, but she felt guilty. Shaking it from her mind, she glanced at Fleur again before returning to her work.
This one is a short chapter, sorry! But will upload the chapter after it as well - Consolation chapters, baby!
Fleur returned to her job, but seemed to work in terms of 'projects' rather than the standard 9 to 5 work day. Sometimes she would be around during the week day, other times she would be gone a lot, even during the weekend.
Hermione had settled into a strange kind of domestic tranquillity with Fleur. When Fleur wasn't working, she loved to cook, making meals for the both of them and sometimes even preparing lunch in advance for Hermione when she would be out the next day. When Fleur was busy on a project, Hermione would make dinner. Sometimes Fleur wouldn't be home for dinner, but when Hermione would check the fridge the next day, the dinner she had set aside for her had gone.
Hermione wrote to Harry and Ron regularly, telling them about her studies and asking about their lives. Harry was busy training to be an auror, but he was finding it frustrating that people kept trying to give him a free pass. Hermione smiled at that. Harry had grown up with strange fame and seemed to dislike it as much as Hermione did. Ron, on the other hand, happily informed Hermione in a letter that the Chudley Cannons had accepted him as a member to try and "boost their fanbase." If that were Hermione, she would be mortified at earning her place in such a way, but Ron was ecstatic. He was the poster boy for his favourite team.
Hermione unfurled a letter from Harry. He had clipped out an article of hers on Grindylows that had been published in a prominent research magazine, proud that her academic career was beginning to take off. Hermione smiled. Harry was like family to her, it meant a lot to see how proud he was of her. She turned her attention to his letter.
He was doing fine in his auror class. He suspected his lecturers weren't being entirely honest when he had asked them not to factor in his war achievements in his course. Hermione smiled at that, of course they were factoring that in. He was the Harry Potter.
Harry told her how Ron was becoming unbearable to live with since making it onto the Chudley Cannons. He joked that soon Ron would be carrying around a stack of autographed photos of himself like Lockhart. That elicited a giggle from Hermione. Ron wasn't far off Lockhart level with his love of fame. Harry finished with a cluster of sentences he had clearly fitted in strategically, to try and make them seem more innocuous than they were. Ron had been out partying more and more lately, often in the company of young female fans. Hermione bit her lip and folded Harry's letter in half.
It was strange, she was naturally annoyed at Ron. But she oddly didn't feel upset about the implication of the time spent with young female fans. She wondered what that meant for their budding relationship. Wasn't she supposed to care?
Hermione stretched and yawned. It was late and dark outside. Fleur was still out, presumably still at work. Hermione shuffled her papers before heading to bed.
Hermione had been reading a novel quietly in bed for a while when she heard scuffling in the hallway. Ignoring it, she flipped a page. But then she heard something fall and some clattering. Nervous now, Hermione put her book face down on her bedside table, getting out of bed and creeping towards the door. She extinguished her lamp with her wand, letting her eyes adjust to the dim light instead. Sliding the door open slowly so that it wouldn't make a noise, she peered out into the hallway, alert.
What Hermione could see through the darkness was alarming.
Fleur was pinned to a wall by a woman, who seemed to be pressing against her quite hard. Fleur let out a whimper. Hermione tightened her grip on her wand, ready to stun this intruder.
But then Fleur let out a moan, suddenly rolling her head back with pleasure. The woman kissed Fleur's neck. Hermione blushed hotly, realising what she was witnessing. She should retreat into her room before anyone noticed. She should… But she was rooted to the spot. F
leur's hands made her way into the woman's dark hair as the woman kissed her mouth this time, releasing Fleur from being pinned to the wall. The woman's hands drifted down Fleur's back and to her ass, before lifting Fleur up and shoving her roughly against the wall again. Fleur wrapped her legs around the woman as she let out another moan. Hermione blushed heavier and retreated back into her room as the woman then carried Fleur to her bedroom.
Fleur is into women? Hermione reeled, lying back in her own bed. Her face was still burning hotly and her stomach felt funny. Her mind kept replaying the whimpers and moans that Fleur had made in the darkness of the hallway. Maybe that's why things didn't work out with Bill? Hermione thought. She wondered what Fleur was doing now... Hermione's stomach gave another unfamiliar lurch.
Hermione shut her eyes tightly, rolling onto her side and pulling the covers above her head. She was just startled, she told herself. She'd got a fright from hearing noises in the hallway. She hadn't expected Fleur to be bringing home strangers, let alone women.
The next morning, Hermione awoke late, from a strange and hazy dream. She felt unsettled. Padding out for a coffee, she found Fleur making breakfast for them. Hermione blushed at the memory of Fleur being taken passionately in the hallway by a woman.
"Morning," Fleur greeted. She was evidently in a conversational mood this morning.
"Morning, Fleur," Hermione greeted, mentally willing her ears to stop burning, "How are you?"
"Great, and you?" Fleur replied, smiling as she poured them both a coffee.
Yeah, I can imagine you're feeling great after sleeping with some strange woman last night, Hermione thought to herself.
"Good. What did you get up to last night?" Hermione asked, not looking at Fleur and instead looking intently at her black coffee.
"Ah. You heard me coming home then," Fleur surmised.
Gods, it really is like she can read my mind, Hermione noted, alarmed. Perhaps she had not been as subtle with her inquiry as she thought she had.
"Erm… Yeah," Hermione commented, not elaborating on the fact that she not only heard Fleur come home with someone, but saw that it was not a man she was with.
"I am going through a divorce," Fleur said simply, as if that were explanation enough. Hermione nodded dumbly. Truth be told, Hermione was still processing the entire situation.
"Right, yeah, must still be pretty fresh," Hermione said awkwardly. Fleur nodded.
"But I am signing the papers today," Fleur said brightly, "Will you be home for dinner tonight?"
"When am I not?" Hermione laughed, "You know I have no real social life."
"Bon," Fleur smiled, "We can have a wine to celebrate me signing off on my divorce."
"Will you be bringing your, erm, friend from last night?" Hermione ventured. Fleur laughed. Her magical pretty laugh that made Hermione's stomach squirm even more than usual.
"Non, that was a one-off," Fleur grinned, "A lovely friend, but a friend I will probably not see again."
Hermione smiled into her coffee, wondering why she was suddenly feeling so cheerful.
Hermione went outside, inhaling the brisk seaside air. She walked through the little garden and up a small path. From there, it was a short walk to the nearby woods where she weaved her way quietly through the trees to seek out the colony of wood nymphs. She settled on a fallen tree nearby and pulled out a little leather bound notebook to write down her observations.
The wood nymphs frolicked in the streaming sun as Hermione looked down and realised she had been absent-mindedly sketching a woman with long blonde hair. She blushed when she realised what she was doing. For some reason Fleur was stuck in her head and she couldn't get her out.
Perhaps it was because Fleur was so mysterious. Hermione had thought for the entirety of the Triwizard Tournament (and right up until she arrived at Shell Cottage a battered mess) that Fleur was simply vain, arrogant and cold. But then she had revealed her caring and nurturing side. Then, Hermione had assumed she had fallen into a quiet and nurturing wifely role with Bill after his werewolf bite. But, now Fleur had left him and was bedding strange women in the middle of the night. Hermione couldn't quite work her out.
Hermione got up, stretching and brushing some stray leaves off herself. She made her way back to the picturesque cottage overlooking the sea. She spent the afternoon cleaning up around the cottage, replying to letters from Harry, Ron and Ginny and doing some more reading. It was early evening when Fleur came home again, positively beaming.
"All signed?" Hermione asked cheerily.
"All signed," Fleur smiled, breezing into the kitchen and beginning to rummage around, "I am now a free woman."
She whirled around, a basket in her hands.
"Shall we eat down at the beach this evening?" Fleur asked. Hermione smiled. She wasn't sure she had ever seen Fleur this happy.
"Sure," Hermione said, pulling on a jumper and following Fleur out the door. Fleur headed down the little path Hermione had taken earlier, but in the opposite direction. This way headed downhill in a short winding path to the beach.
Selecting a clear spot, Fleur transfigured a blanket before placing the basket down. She slipped her shoes off and sat down on the blanket, tucking her legs beneath her. Hermione sat down across from her. Fleur was wearing some jean shorts, a white linen blouse and a loose knit jumper. Her platinum hair was loose and fluttering in the wind. Hermione watched it, enthralled, as Fleur began to unpack the basket. Fleur served them up two bowls of pasta and then produced a couple of wine glasses which she filled with red wine.
"You came prepared," Hermione commented, impressed.
"I always come prepared for a picnic," Fleur said in a deadly serious tone. Hermione looked at her funny, but then Fleur grinned wildly. Hermione laughed.
They began to eat in amiable silence, smiling to themselves.
"So what did happen with Bill?" Hermione asked, now a little more at ease. She looked out at the crashing waves of the sea while eating her pasta.
"We grew apart," Fleur answered simply, "Who we were before the war is not who we are now. I met him when I was eighteen. I'm twenty-two now and have changed so much. I'm still young and Bill wanted me to be an old settled down housewife."
"But you stayed with him until now," Hermione noted.
"You can't leave someone during a war," Fleur said, smiling sadly, "Especially not when you're nursing them back to health after a werewolf attack. I can only imagine what his mother says about me leaving him now…"
"I can't imagine you caring what she thinks," Hermione said, sipping at some wine. Fleur smirked.
"I don't," Fleur replied, "You know her and Ginny call me Phlegm? They think I don't notice their harsh comments and looks."
At this Hermione felt guilty, she had joined in with Molly and Ginny on multiple occasions in the past. Fleur had probably noticed that too. The sun was beginning to set and a seagull squawked in the distance. Hermione thought about what Fleur had said.
"I'm not sure that I'm a different person than I was before the war," Hermione said, watching the ocean, "But I do feel like I am suddenly free to realise who I am. From my first year at Hogwarts we always had some big life-or-death situation each year, getting worse and worse until the war broke out. I never really had room to breathe, let alone realise anything about myself."
"It must be nice not having to worry about life-or-death situations regularly now," Fleur said with a smile.
"Well... Kind of. Though, it's nicer out here, away from the media and fans," Hermione said, turning to look at Fleur.
"It's strange," Fleur said, watching Hermione from over her glass of wine, "For some reason I had always assumed that you would love people knowing how talented and intelligent you are."
Hermione blushed. It was partially true. There was always a satisfaction of rattling off all the information she knew or demonstrating something new she had picked up. But as for the fame… That was different.
"I guess we don't know each other that well at all, then," Hermione said. Fleur nodded, though had a funny type of rueful smile on her face.
"I got quite attached to you when nursing you better after Malfoy Manor," Fleur suddenly admitted out of the blue. Hermione felt her stomach squirm uncomfortably. "I was so afraid that you weren't going to make it."
"You were afraid?" Hermione asked, genuinely surprised, "You always seemed so confident and assured."
"I was terrified," Fleur confessed with a smile, "I didn't know what I was doing. I was just trying everything I could think of to get you healthy again, hoping something would work."
Hermione shivered. It was getting cold.
"When did it suddenly get so dark?" Hermione asked, looking around, surprised that the sun had set.
Fleur laughed and packed up the things, brushing her hair out of her face against the wind that was beginning to pick up. They began to walk up the path back to the cottage again in the dark. Hermione almost choked on her own saliva as Fleur took her hand.
Must be because its dark and she doesn't want me to fall, Hermione reasoned. Fleur was looking ahead at the path with a neutral face.
When they made it inside the cottage, Fleur released her hand. Hermione sighed and took the basket from Fleur.
"You prepared it, so I'll clean up," Hermione explained as she opened the basket and began to pile the cutlery and other contents onto the countertop.
"Thanks, Hermione," Fleur said, from somewhere behind Hermione.
"Do you have any other plans for the evening?" Hermione asked, turning around. Her jaw fell open as she saw Fleur disrobing as she walked out of the room. She definitely saw her entire bare back and perhaps a peek of more.
"Just a nice long shower," Fleur replied, calling through from the hallway. Hermione felt herself go bright red and she turned abruptly back to the dishes.
"Erm, c-cool!" Hermione said, before cringing. Why was she acting so awkward? It wasn't like she hadn't seen a heap of naked girls in the dormitories at Hogwarts before. Maybe it was just that she had kind of anticipated that Fleur would be reserved and she was just surprised.
After doing the dishes, Hermione buried herself heavily in a book, not daring to look up from the pages when she heard the bathroom door open and the footsteps of Fleur walking to her room after her shower.
Sighing, she put down her book and walked to the bathroom herself, shutting the door behind her. The bathroom smelled intoxicatingly like vanilla and almond and Hermione exhaled heavily. She was feeling so strangely these days. Her chest felt a little tight and her stomach felt heavy. Turning on the shower, she disrobed and stepped under the stream of water, shutting her eyes tightly. Her mind, unbidden, replayed the memory of walking up the path from the beach, hand in hand with Fleur.
The next day, Fleur had already left before Hermione arose. But when Hermione got up, she saw a coffee that had been charmed to remain hot as well as a croissant on her table beside her notes. Her mouth quirked into a goofy smile. Fleur was thoughtful.
Hermione thought about Fleur often throughout the day, as she went to observe the wood nymphs, wrote up her observations and did her readings. She couldn't believe that there was so much more to Fleur than what she had assumed all these years. She had been missing out on all this for so long.
There was a knock at the door and Hermione frowned. Surely Fleur hadn't locked herself out… If she had, she would surely just unlock the door with magic and stroll in. Hermione got up and walked to the door, opening it to find Ron. Ron was smiling broadly, a duffel bag slung over his shoulder and sporting a bristly short beard.
"You're growing a beard?" Hermione asked, raising her eyebrows. Ron laughed and set down his bag.
"You see me for the first time in weeks and that's the first thing you have to say?" Ron grinned, pulling her into a tight hug and pecking her quickly on the lips. Hermione felt a surge of guilt. She had almost forgotten she was still technically going out with Ron.
"What're you doing here?" Hermione asked, surprised.
"Got the weekend off training so thought I'd come down here as soon as I finished this afternoon to come surprise you," Ron grunted, picking up his duffel bag and strolling further into the cottage, "Wow, books and papers everywhere… You really have made this place your own."
"Well, I do pay rent, Ronald," Hermione reminded. He turned to look at her again, eying her up and down greedily.
"You've got tanned," he commented, "Being more outdoorsy suits you."
"I tan easily," Hermione shrugged. There was a crack and Fleur apparated into the living room next to them. Ron immediately narrowed his eyes.
"What're you doing at Bill's place?" Ron asked harshly.
"It is my place," Fleur replied, "I got it in the divorce."
"You got this place in the divorce?" Ron said, crossing his arms, "Bullshit. Aren't you from some poncy mansion in France? Shouldn't you have let him have everything? Especially a cottage he got from his aunt?"
"We split things equally," Fleur replied calmly, "If you know your brother you would know that he would not want my charity."
"Calm down, Ron," Hermione interrupted, "He has me paying rent to him despite him not owning it anyway."
"Right," Ron replied, but he still looked extremely put out at Fleur's presence. He turned back to Hermione, "How come you didn't tell me she was here?"
"I don't know," Hermione said uneasily, "I guess it never came up."
"Can I ask what you are doing here?" Fleur asked Ron, a little coldly.
"I'm allowed to come stay with my girlfriend," Ron said defensively, throwing an arm around Hermione's shoulder.
"Ah, so the tabloids were not lying about that," Fleur commented, her face annoyingly neutral again.
"Course not," Ron said proudly, "We're the Golden Couple. Heroes of the modern world."
"Right," Fleur replied, uninterested. She turned and walked from the room without another word. Ron looked at Hermione.
"Still a right rude bitch, then," Ron said darkly.
"Hush, she's letting us stay in her house, Ron," Hermione said, elbowing him, "She's actually quite nice."
"Never thought I'd hear you say that about Phlegm," Ron said with a smirk, "So which room is ours?"
Hermione tried to ignore the pure annoyance at Ron referring to her room as 'theirs.'
Hermione awoke the next morning to Ron's loud snores right in her ear. He was spooning her, and to her mild disgust, she could feel his manhood jutting into her. She began to wriggle out of his arms, waking him.
"Hmn?" Ron murmured sleepily, "Whassat?"
"Nothing, you were just snoring," Hermione said gently. Ron rubbed his eyes as he began to wake up properly.
"Sorry, 'Mione," Ron grunted, "It's pretty tiring keeping up with those Chudley lads... I get pretty worn out."
"It's fine," Hermione said dismissively, reaching for her latest novel from her bedside table. She opened up to the page she had been last reading but Ron seemed interested in continuing to chat.
I wonder if Fleur would interrupt my morning reading in bed like this? Hermione thought, before shaking her head lightly. What a weird thought. She tuned back into Ron and realised he had actually just said Fleur's name.
"Sorry, what?" Hermione asked, lowering her book with interest.
"I said I'm surprised you manage to live with Fleur," Ron repeated, "You never seemed to have much time for her in the past."
"Yeah, it surprised me too," Hermione said honestly, "But I don't know… Lately I've been feeling… I've been feeling really interested in being her friend."
"Weird," Ron replied. Hermione nodded absently.
"You look nice by the way," Ron commented.
"Thanks," Hermione said unconvincingly. Ron suddenly dived in and kissed her.
Hermione was hyper aware of Ron's morning breath and beard bristles scratching her face. His large hands pawed at her front and she could feel his hardness pressing into her again. His large tongue pushed into her mouth. He always used too much tongue and it made her feel like he was trying to choke her. Hermione wrenched away abruptly.
"What's wrong?" Ron asked, surprised.
"Nothing," Hermione replied, "I'm sorry… I'm just not feeling it."
Ron groaned and threw himself dramatically on his back.
"You're never feeling it," Ron said sulkily.
"Ron, easy on," Hermione said. She could sense his temper beginning to rise.
"Can't you like… At least…?" Ron said, frustrated, gesturing wildly at the tent in his boxers.
"At least what?" Hermione asked.
"At least suck me off!" Ron snapped, "Jesus, you're so bloody frigid!"
Hermione felt like she'd been punched in the stomach. Ron could say some blunt and hurtful things, but this was too far.
"Get out," Hermione said coldly.
"What?" Ron asked, caught off-guard.
"Get out and go home, Ronald," Hermione said firmly, "I don't want to deal with you right now."
Ron reddened, furrowing his brows.
"Fine!" he bellowed, rolling out of bed and beginning to pull his clothes on, "I don't need a frigid virgin for a girlfriend anyway!"
He threw his remaining clothes roughly into his duffel bag before slinging it over his shoulder and apparating away.
Hermione sighed and ran a hand through her hair, getting out of bed and walking out of her room. Thankfully, Fleur was already out for the day so wouldn't have heard that little tiff. Walking out to the living room, Hermione smiled as she saw a mug of hot coffee left for her beside her notes again.
Fleur arrived home later in the morning, clad in a singlet, running shorts and trainers. Her hair was in a topknot and her face was flushed. She had a sheen of light sweat.
"Been for a run?" Hermione asked, before mentally kicking herself for stating the obvious.
"Yeah," Fleur replied, immediately removing her shoes and socks and heading to the kitchen for some water, "Where's your boyfriend?"
"He… he left," Hermione said. She didn't really feel like talking to Fleur about what a nightmare it had been. It was just too depressing.
Hermione was sitting at the table as usual, writing up some notes. She almost dropped her quill as Fleur walked back into the room clad only in her short running shorts and her sports bra. She had removed her singlet.
"He went back to the city already?" Fleur asked, sitting on the edge of the nearby couch. Hermione tried not to stare as Fleur began to slowly stretch, taut muscles flexing under her skin.
"Erm… Y-yeah," Hermione said absently, her eyes rebelling and staying glued to Fleur's body. Fleur finished stretching and then moved to massaging her thighs. Hermione felt a pang in her lower body.
"That's a shame," Fleur said in a voice that showed she really wasn't concerned about Ron leaving early, "Hey, could you do something for me?"
"Anything," Hermione uttered almost in a trance, before catching herself. Gods, why was she acting so weird around Fleur?
"Could you massage my shoulders?" Fleur asked, "They feel a little tight."
Hermione swallowed. Fleur was always so kind to her, she could hardly say no.
"S-sure," Hermione replied, coming to sit on the couch beside Fleur.
"Bon," Fleur replied, before moving to sit on the floor between Hermione's legs, her back facing her. Hermione suppressed a shiver at Fleur's bare shoulders brushing the inside of her thighs. The blonde's skin was hot from her run. Hermione's hands trembled a little as she moved them to rest on Fleur's shoulders tentatively.
"Wait," Fleur said suddenly, before swiftly removing her bra, "There, that's better."
Hermione was glad Fleur wasn't facing her because a dark blush had raged its way across her face. She cleared her throat awkwardly and began to knead at Fleur's shoulders, starting at the top before moving further down her shoulder blades.
After a little while, Hermione was happily absorbed in her task, and had relaxed. She found a knot in Fleur's right shoulder, working it carefully out. Fleur let out an involuntary moan. Hermione felt the blush come back swiftly as she was taken back instantly to the scene of Fleur being taken by the mystery woman in the middle of the night. She removed her hands from Fleur abruptly.
Fleur turned around to face her and Hermione felt her breath stick in her throat. Fleur was topless and kneeling between her legs, looking up at her with those intense azure eyes. It was too much.
"Merci," Fleur said softly. She placed a hand on the inside of each of Hermione's thighs and Hermione felt her heart begin to beat so hard she was sure Fleur could hear it. But then Fleur leant on her hands, using Hermione's legs to hoist herself up.
"I… uh…" Hermione cursed her tangled tongue. She reddened again.
"I'm going to take a shower," Fleur said, walking slowly towards the shower. Hermione watched her leave, her eyes roaming down Fleur's bare back to the way her ass looked in those shorts. As Fleur reached the hallway, she looked over her shoulder, winking at Hermione.
Hermione's jaw dropped as Fleur disappeared into the hallway.
What was that wink? Hermione wondered, alarmed, Did she know that I would be looking at her body? Did she plan for me to be looking at her body? Oh my God… is she trying to SEDUCE me?!
Hermione blushed at the thought. It was utterly ludicrous. She was straight… She was dating Ron… She took a shaky breath, trying to ignore how weak both those arguments sounded to herself.
Fleur reappeared later, making them both lunch as if nothing had happened. Hermione watched her warily from over her soup. She seemed impassive again, finishing her own soup relatively quickly before fishing out a novel and going to lie down and read in a sunbeam.
Hermione settled back into writing up her notes, trying to keep her thoughts from Fleur. She finished off a section and was proudly reviewing her work when Fleur cleared her throat. Hermione looked up. Fleur was lying across the couch, her head propped up on one hand.
"I've finished my novel. There's another one beside you on the table there." Fleur said, watching her intently.
"Oh… you want…" Hermione murmured, noticing the French novel beside a stack of her field diaries.
"I want you to give it to me," Fleur said. Hermione felt her stomach twist uncomfortably and a heat rush to her face. She wondered if she imagined the flirtiness in Fleur's voice as she had said the double entendre.
"Umm," Hermione felt flustered, but was determined to keep her resolve. This woman was Ron's sister-in-law until recently! It was hardly appropriate! She knocked over a stack of books, but grabbed Fleur's novel nonetheless, bringing it to the Frenchwoman at the couch.
"Merci, you are too kind," Fleur said with a coy smile. Maybe this was all a horrible joke, Hermione thought wildly. Or maybe Hermione had completely imagined that Fleur was flirting with her, and she was just being friendly.
"How is your paper going?" Fleur asked her, sitting up on the couch and running her fingers over the cover of the novel Hermione had handed her.
"Great, actually," Hermione beamed, "I'm almost done. I just need to do a final part and then review it all."
"What will you do after that?" Fleur asked, cocking her head to one side. Hermione blushed for what felt like the millionth time that day.
"Er, I was hoping I could stay on here," Hermione said awkwardly, "It's just a lot nicer living out here by the sea and not having to deal with the media or intense fans."
"Of course," Fleur replied with an easy smile, "But I meant what will you do for your next project?"
"Oh, right," Hermione said, "Erm, I dunno yet."
"You could always study Veela," Fleur suggested, a smile playing at her lips.
"I could," Hermione said, rubbing the back of her neck as she walked back to the table, "But I wouldn't know what about Veela to focus on."
"There are some parts of Veela the general public are always interested in," Fleur said, "Our thrall, the magical properties of our hair… our mating habits,"
Hermione choked on some saliva in her mouth.
"I… I dunno… It's notoriously hard to find out anything about Veela," Hermione said, trying to regain her composure.
"There is always finding out first-hand," Fleur said with another coy smile. Hermione felt her stomach flip violently.
Was Fleur flirting with her? And if she was… Why was Fleur flirting with her all of a sudden? And why was Hermione so susceptible to it?!
"I have a boyfriend," Hermione blurted suddenly. Fleur raised her eyebrows and smirked.
"I have met him," Fleur replied. For a mortifying second, Hermione thought she had misread the entire situation and Fleur had not actually been flirting with her at all.
"Sorry," Hermione said hastily, blushing again.
"It is okay," Fleur replied, "I am sure eventually you will give in to your desires to… study,"
Okay, she was definitely flirting. Hermione couldn't believe it. It made her feel a cacophony of different emotions. Surprised, flattered, excited… But also a little annoyed. She was taken. Fleur had met her boyfriend, who was the brother of her very recent ex husband.
"I'm straight," Hermione said stubbornly, crossing her arms.
Fleur just smirked at her before picking up her novel and taking it outside to read.
The next day, Hermione awoke to a coffee and eggs benedict, courtesy of Fleur.
"Morning," Fleur chirped, coming to bring her a glass of orange juice. She pecked Hermione swiftly on the cheek. Hermione felt her stomach flip annoyingly again. But she was nothing if not stubborn. She wasn't about to be seduced by her boyfriend's ex sister in law as some kind of bizarre rebound.
"Morning," Hermione greeted back, eying Fleur suspiciously.
"What are you up to today?" Fleur asked, her face neutral.
"I was thinking of taking my completed draft in for one of my old lecturers to read over," Hermione replied. She was dreading heading into the city.
"Would you like company?" Fleur asked. Hermione weighed it up. She was still cautious of Fleur seducing her… But she did hate facing the media and public alone. And Hermione genuinely did enjoy spending time with Fleur.
"Sure," Hermione said finally.
"Bien, I am ready to go whenever you are," Fleur smiled.
After showering and getting dressed, Hermione was ready to head into the city with Fleur. She had opted for an understated outfit of a leather jacket, loose white tee and black jeans. Fleur was wearing a tasteful pencil skirt and light blouse, with a pair of her heels. Fleur took her hand expectantly and Hermione had to clear her mind of its familiar awkwardness before apparating them.
They arrived in the middle of a square in London, near where some of the higher education wizarding institutions were. Almost immediately, people nearby spotted her and a thick crowd had gathered around. Camera bulbs were flashing and people were jostling and calling out, trying to catch a glimpse of her or gain her attention.
Hermione groaned. She loathed this. She looked at Fleur, who appeared aloof. Fleur shifted her hand from being in Hermione's hand, to grasping her at the elbow.
"If you wouldn't mind," Fleur said coldly, flipping her hair. The crowd, sighing, made room for her and she pulled Hermione through. Fleur continued being rude and cold, parting the obedient crowd.
"So that's why you were always so rude at Hogwarts," Hermione commented, as they finally made their way into a bearably thin level of crowd.
"They'll listen to you if you're direct," Fleur replied with a shrug, "And they won't try to waylay you if you're cold to them."
Hermione stared at Fleur as they walked towards the educational buildings. Hermione had had relatively no experience with unwanted attention before the war, but Fleur had been raised with it.
After dropping off the paper to Hermione's old lecturer, Fleur suggested a less frequented area of town. They ended up walking arm and arm along the banks of a tree lined river. Hermione relished the chance to walk around without any pestering crowds.
"Why did you suddenly start flirting with me?" Hermione asked, unable to stand the mystery any longer. Fleur shrugged.
"I don't know," Fleur replied honestly.
"But why? Are you upset about your divorce? Are you mad at Bill's family? Are you jealous?"
"You think too much," Fleur smiled. Hermione smiled back despite herself.
"So I've been told," Hermione replied, "It doesn't mean that thinking too much is a bad thing."
"Have you always been stubborn?" Fleur asked, the smile still playing at her lips.
"If by stubborn you mean not giving in to what everyone else thinks I should do, then yes," Hermione said defensively, folding her arms.
"Well… I'm not everyone," Fleur said, her smile growing predatorily. She moved in closer and closer to Hermione. Hermione felt her heart beating harder and harder. She was sure Fleur would be able to hear it this time.
"I…" Hermione was lost for words. If Fleur was about to kiss her, she wasn't sure she could resist. She wasn't sure she wanted to resist.
But then Fleur simply took her hand and smirked.
"We should probably head back home," Fleur said with a teasing smile, "I have to get changed before heading to work."
Hermione irritably ignored the sinking feeling of disappointment in her stomach as Fleur disapparated them back to Shell Cottage.
Over the next two weeks, Hermione tried to push thoughts of Fleur out of her mind. But try as she might, the blonde was never far from her thoughts.
Hermione tried to busy herself in work, deciding to take advantage of her seaside location and select a magical sea creature to study for her next academic paper. The problem was, she wasn't entirely sure what was native to the area.
Sighing heavily over a large textbook, Hermione looked out the window. It was a sunny day and there was not an owl in sight. Ron still hadn't written to her after their fight, which wasn't unusual. Even at Hogwarts it often took him weeks to calm down and realise he was being a prat. Harry and Ginny had been concerned, but seemed to be staying out of it.
Hermione pushed her chair back and headed out the door, treading the familiar path down to the beach. She hadn't seen Fleur yet this morning, although she had padded out to the living room to find a coffee and some breakfast laid out for her as usual.
Hermione thought about Fleur's habit of leaving her food and furrowed her eyebrows. It was another conflicting aspect of her character. She seemed so reserved and aloof half the time. Hermione reached the sand and looked out at the sea, gasping as the surface broke with a splash.
Fleur's head popped up from the water and she ran her hands over her face and her hair before looking towards the beach and smiling at Hermione. As Hermione waved to her, Fleur swam briskly back to shore.
"How's the water?" Hermione called out. Fleur began to walk out of the water, hugging her arms to herself. She was clad in a bikini, which Hermione tried to will her eyes not to observe quite so closely.
"Freezing," Fleur said with a grin. She came to stand by Hermione, "What brings you to the water so early?"
"I thought I would look at a sea creature for my next paper," Hermione said, before observing the goosebumps covering Fleur's body and the way she was shivering, "Jesus, Fleur, you look like you're frozen!"
Without even thinking of magic, Hermione brought her arms around Fleur and drew her close, rubbing her hands over Fleur's toned back in an attempt to warm her.
"So still avoiding studying Veela more closely then?" Fleur purred close to Hermione's ear. Her breath tickled Hermione's earlobe. Hermione involuntarily blushed, stepping back from Fleur and fumbling with her wand before casting a warming spell. She tried to ignore the strange feeling raging through her body after holding a half-naked Fleur pressed to her. She hated to admit it, but holding Fleur so closely had made her feel… Aroused. Hermione blushed darker at the realisation.
"You're wet," Fleur said, watching her intently. Hermione made a choking noise.
"I—what? No I'm not," Hermione blurted quickly. Her face was positively resembling a beetroot by now, she was sure. Fleur reached forward and tugged at Hermione's shirt. Hermione looked at her shirt, slowly registering that it was quite damp from holding Fleur.
"You are," Fleur insisted, "Let me borrow your wand to dry it,"
"N-no, its fine," Hermione said, attempting to regain her composure, casting a quick spell at her shirt.
"Do you want me to help you with what sea creatures live around this area?" Fleur asked, graciously changing the subject and looking neutral again.
Hermione opened her mouth and then shut it again. Her mind was going at a million miles a second and she couldn't quite process what was going on right now. She simply shook her head abruptly and turned on her heel, marching back to the cottage.
Hermione fled back into the cottage and into her room, shutting her door firmly and leaning heavily against it. She rubbed her forehead.
I'm attracted to women, Hermione thought incredulously, How could I not notice this before?
Her mind replayed a montage of memories that it had pushed down deep within. Admiring Lavender and Parvarti in the dormitories, enjoying sharing a bed with Ginny at the Burrow a little too much, watching Fleur stretch… Hermione shut her eyes, blushing heavily.
She heard footsteps in the hallway as Fleur presumably arrived home. There was the sound of the shower starting and Hermione sighed heavily, running her hand through her messy curls. Gods, she really had a lot to figure out about herself now the war was over.
Hermione sighed again, pushing the issue out of her mind for now, and opened her bedroom door, padding her way quietly back to the living room. On the table beside her papers and books was a clean sheet of parchment. Hermione approached it cautiously.
In elegant looping cursive, was a list of sea creatures native to the area. Beside the list was another steaming cup of coffee. Hermione felt a smile tug at her lips and sat down to consult the list.
It was a fascinating collection of creatures. Hermione took some time looking up details on each type of creature Fleur had named.
Hermione had narrowed it down to two or three creatures that sounded fascinating enough to warrant studying, when Fleur entered the living area again. Her hair was slightly damp from her shower and she was in another loose knit sweater and pair of jean shorts, stepping barefoot through the cottage.
"Found anything interesting in that list?" Fleur asked, shuffling through a number of different novels on the couch.
"A few," Hermione replied, "Thanks."
Fleur nodded, crossing her legs and opening a novel.
Fleur, whether it was her mood or she was sensing awkwardness from the moment at the beach, was quiet for much of the day. She stayed near Hermione but remained absorbed in her own tasks: reading, stretching or cooking.
Hermione, for her part, was thankful.
The next two days settled Hermione and Fleur back into their usual domesticity. Fleur was busy at work and Hermione cooked dinner for the both of them in the evenings. Fleur even resumed the infrequent flirting with Hermione.
Hermione had just walked into the living room one evening when she jumped at Fleur being home early.
"You're back sooner than I thought you would be," Hermione commented. Fleur arched an eyebrow.
"My project is finished," Fleur replied simply.
"Oh… so… early dinner?" Hermione asked. She was trying not to notice how good Fleur looked in her tight skirt and heels. As if reading her mind, Fleur undid one of her blouse buttons, revealing a smooth expanse of skin and just a hint of cleavage.
"I'll cook," Fleur offered, stepping closer to Hermione. She smiled flirtatiously, "Is there anything in particular you desire?"
She was impossibly close and Hermione was feeling intoxicated by her very presence. She swallowed heavily. It would be so easy to give in.
"I'm Ron's girlfriend," Hermione said abruptly, in an unsteady voice. Fleur exhaled sharply and took a step back.
"Ron…" Fleur repeated, in a tone that had a hard edge to it. Hermione felt annoyance flare up in response to Fleur's tone.
"Do you have something to say?" Hermione challenged. Fleur raised her eyebrows at Hermione's directness. There was a long pause between them.
"I just never saw you as settling for someone like him," Fleur said finally, "I guess I thought you had more fire to you."
There was another tense silence in which Fleur kept her gaze and Hermione felt the annoyance begin to boil over. Before she could even register what she was doing, she grabbed Fleur by the waist and pushed her roughly against the wall, kissing her fiercely. Fleur let out a little gasp of surprise and Hermione used the opportunity to slip her tongue into Fleur's mouth. It felt like her skin was on fire, in a good way. She was feeling things coursing through her body that she had never felt with Ron.
Hermione's brain engaged again and she pulled away from Fleur quickly. Fleur was breathless and had a light blush adorning her cheeks. She touched at her lips with slender fingers.
"I'm sorry," Hermione said quickly, "That never should have happened,"
Fleur remained silent, her face still stunned.
Hermione backed out of the room and retreated to her bedroom, not even bothering to change into pyjamas before climbing under the covers and pulling them over her head.
Hermione awoke with a start, the memories of the previous evening washing over her. She felt a surge of guilt. She shouldn't have kissed Fleur. For a multitude of reasons. Hermione had never intended to let things stagnate with Ron to the point where she would become unfaithful to him.
She sighed, sitting up in bed and slinging her feet onto the floor heavily.
She couldn't put it off any longer. She needed to schedule a trip back to the city to visit Ron and sort things out once and for all.
Hermione ran her hand through her curls, scribbling messily on a sheet of parchment before sending it off. She would visit London in a few days. For now, she just needed to get her head together.
Hermione was surprised. In the days leading to her London visit, Fleur entirely stopped her teasing seduction tactics and instead merely resumed leaving her food and beverages. Hermione was confused. Confusingly, Fleur also seemed to be spending a lot more time at home, and constantly seemed to be in the general vicinity of Hermione.
Hermione wasn't sure what to make of it… Whether Fleur had lost interest now she had obtained a kiss from Hermione or not… But for now she had to focus on what she would say to Ron.
Finally the day came where she would apparate to London. She had packed an overnight bag and slung it over her shoulder. She strolled into the living room, surprised to see Fleur had apparently gone out for once. She was about to apparate away when she saw a brown paper bag and a slip of parchment on the table.
When you are busy you always forget to eat lunch, so I packed some for you.
Have a great time in London. I will miss you while you are away.
Hermione was struck by Fleur knowing her so well that she would think to do something so thoughtful. She picked up the paper bag gratefully, before turning on the spot and apparating to London.
"You sure you wanna crash here instead of with Ron?" Harry asked, scratching his head. Hermione nodded.
"Yeah, thanks Harry," Hermione said with a smile, "Besides, after I talk to Ron tonight, I can spend the rest of my trip catching up with you."
"Sounds great," Harry said with a grin. Thankfully, he didn't pry further.
There was a knock at the door before it immediately swung open to reveal Ron. He was wearing a pair of sunglasses and a dragon hide coat. His hair was swept back in a manner that strangely reminded Hermione of a ginger Draco Malfoy.
"Ready to go, 'Mione?" Ron called out with a broad smile. Hermione nodded, saying goodbye to Harry before heading out the door with Ron.
"So, I know we haven't really talked since our fight at Shell Cottage," Hermione began, "But like I said in my letter, I was hoping we could have some time to talk tonight, just the two of us."
"Yeah, I'm sorry about Shell Cottage," Ron said as they stepped out onto the street, beginning to grin widely as flashbulbs signalled the arrival of media. Hermione sighed as he turned away and began signing autographs for fans. Hermione took Fleur's advice and coldly pushed away reporters asking for quotes, which seemed to somewhat work. Eventually, Ron finished engaging with the press and fans and slung his arm around Hermione again.
"I have a great night lined up for us," Ron said with a grin, apparating them to stand outside a bar.
"Drinks?" Hermione asked, "I suppose that is as good a place as any to talk."
Hermione had been clear in her letter to Ron that she was hoping to have a deep and much needed talk. She just hoped he had selected a bar where they would be able to have some space and quiet to do so.
Ron took her hand and led her inside. As soon as they entered, a large crowd of people dressed in the Chudley Cannons colours of bright orange let out cheers. Ron grinned widely.
"Hey, lads!" Ron bellowed, raising his arms. The cheers and whoops increased. Hermione felt her stomach sink a little as Ron led her over to introduce her to his starstruck teammates.
"This is Galvin Gudgeon," Ron said happily to Hermione, "You must remember me talking about him at Hogwarts,"
"Vaguely," Hermione said noncommittally, shaking Galvin's hand.
"And this is one of our Beaters, Joey Jenkins," Ron went on, leading Hermione along to meet the rest of the team and the management. They were all in high spirits and the drinks were flowing. Ron had apparently planned all along to have a big night out with the team.
Hermione inwardly groaned, putting up with the nonstop questions about the war from Ron's teammates while he socialised. It was all they seemed interested in-- tales from the Golden Trio. She was relieved when a familiar face appeared beside her after enduring a solid hour of smalltalk with increasingly drunk Quidditch players.
"Hey, Hermione," Bill Weasley said with a smile, "How's it feel dating a professional Quidditch player? I couldn't believe it myself. Had to come down here to visit the baby bro and see it for myself."
"It is weird… He doesn't seem bothered that they only want him around because of his fame," Hermione said darkly. Bill laughed.
"He's always been a bit like that," Bill said with a grin, "Always craved the spotlight from a young age."
"How are you anyway?" Hermione asked, changing the subject.
"I'm fine, despite the difficult divorce, as you probably know from living with my ex-wife," Bill said, rubbing the back of his neck, "Sorry about telling you the house was empty, by the way. I didn't mean for you to get caught up in one of our fights. You really don't have to pay me rent anymore."
"Its fine," Hermione said, waving her hand dismissively. She had already decided not to hold a grudge against Bill for whatever arguments and difficulties were happening between him and his ex-wife. "Fleur and I make perfect flatmates anyway. I'm just sorry things didn't work out between you two. You seemed so happy at your wedding."
Bill shook his head bitterly.
"Its bloody hard being with her, you know," he said, "I thought I was better than this… But I guess I'm not."
"What do you mean?" Hermione asked. Bill looked at her, his eyes pained.
"Everyone falls in love with Fleur," he blurted, as if it was something he had been stewing over, "Within seconds of her walking into any room, all eyes are on her and everyone is sighing over her. Do you know how many love letters she gets from people who have simply seen her in a grocery store? I thought I could keep the jealousy at bay… But Jesus… Being with her is like having to share her with the whole world."
"But she was faithful?" Hermione pried, interested. Bill nodded.
"I assume… Not that one of us needed to cheat for things to go south," he grunted, "My jealousy got really bad… Her pride got worse. You can imagine how it spiralled to our current state. In retrospect, I wish we'd ended things earlier, so at least we would've had a chance at keeping a friendship."
Hermione nodded, processing this new information. She looked across the room at Ron, who was wearing his sunglasses inside and scrawling out some more autographs.
"It was good seeing you again, Bill," Hermione said with a polite smile, "But I need to go and speak to Ronald."
She crossed the room purposefully, tuning out the numerous questions about the war and attempts to get her attention.
"Ron, we need to talk," Hermione said, pulling the redhead aside.
"What about?" Ron asked, "Are you staying at mine tonight?" he added hopefully.
"This isn't working out," Hermione said abruptly, feeling intense guilt as the smile dropped off Ron's face, "I think we've both known for a while that this hasn't been working. It shouldn't be this hard."
Ron paled. He looked around as if afraid people had overheard their conversation.
"But Hermione," Ron said pleadingly, "What about our fans? I can change. I'm sorry about being a prat at Shell Cottage."
"Its not just about that," Hermione said with a sigh, "I love you… as a friend. But I don't feel anything more for you than friendship. I'm sorry."
Ron's expression darkened and he ran a hand through his hair in disbelief. He glanced around the room, purpling as his temper increased.
"Is there someone else?" he asked suspiciously.
"No," Hermione said, "I'm not seeing anyone else."
"So nothing has happened with anyone else?" Ron asked more intensely, still suspicious. Hermione felt a twinge of guilt.
"Well... I kissed someone," Hermione admitted "Just once, I wasn't thinking. It was an accident."
"I think you should leave," he said, not looking at her.
"Leave, Hermione." Ron said firmly. Hermione frowned sadly and left the bar.
Hermione sat on Harry's couch morosely. She was drinking a beer with him, despite it being the middle of the day.
"He'll get over it," Harry said encouragingly, leaning sideways to bump his shoulder against Hermione's.
"Its Ron," Hermione reminded him tersely, "He's going to be livid for a while."
Harry shrugged and reached into the box on the floor to pull another beer out, using a bottle opener to pry off the lid. He sipped at it thoughtfully for a moment.
"You gonna tell me who it was you kissed?" Harry asked, meeting Hermione's eyes. He was surprised when she blushed a dark red.
"I don't want to talk about it," Hermione said hastily, swigging from her own bottle.
Harry, who was usually pretty good at leaving things be, frowned.
"I'm just surprised," Harry explained, "I thought you had been entirely off the grid while you were out at Shell Cottage with Fleur. When did you even get the time to meet someone and kiss them?"
"Drop it, Harry," Hermione said with a frown.
"Its just me," Harry said pointedly, sounding almost offended, "Its not like I'm going to tell Ron,"
"I don't want to talk about it, Harry," Hermione repeated firmly.
"Fine," Harry said defensively, "You know, you've always been so weird and secretive about your love life."
"Um, what about being on the front page of every paper with Ron makes you think I'm secretive about my love life?" Hermione asked, incredulous.
"Yeah, but that's only because we can't help that the media is obsessed with us… And that Ron is obsessed with being in the media," Harry laughed, "Apart from that, you've always hidden any interest or relationships from everyone. Remember Krum? We only found out you were dating him because you showed up at the ball with him!"
"Sue me for wanting to keep some parts of my life private," Hermione huffed. Harry sighed.
"I just don't see what's so bad that you have to hide it from your best mates," Harry said, "I mean I know Ron would have been weird about Krum, but I wouldn't have."
"Harry…" Hermione sighed, "Look, not even I have spent much time thinking about my love life. Ron and Viktor both asked me out. Apart from that, I've never really felt compelled to date someone before… Not that I don't want to… I've just never thought about what I like in another person. Never been driven to want to talk about someone that I'm interested in."
"I suppose nothing much has been happening for me since Cho back at school," Harry said, leaning back and folding his arms behind his head, "We were just so busy with the crazy stuff happening at Hogwarts... and with Sirius and then with Voldemort and the war…"
"Exactly! We never really had time to work out what we're interested in or go through all that normal teenage angst," Hermione agreed.
Harry nodded with a rueful smile.
"Yeah, I mean apart from knowing I'm into women, I guess I wouldn't really have the first clue what kind of a person I'm interested in," Harry said. Hermione silently swallowed her beer.
The next morning, Hermione awoke on Harry's couch and stretched, pulling a woollen blanket off herself. Harry wandered in with coffees and sat down on the armchair opposite her.
"Its been good catching up, Harry," Hermione said with a sleepy smile, taking a mug of coffee from him.
"Yeah, we really shouldn't leave it so long next time before catching up," Harry agreed, "You've been off the grid a lot over the last couple of years."
Harry paused before he pulled a rolled up newspaper from under his arm.
"This is probably gonna piss you off but I think we both learnt with Skeeter that it's better to have a heads up on horrible news stories."
"Oh God, what is it?" Hermione groaned, taking the paper from Harry. She unfurled it it and swore as she saw the front page.
' " She Cheated On Me!" : Ron Weasley's Tragic Heartbreak
Yesterday Ron Weasley, famous Quidditch player of Golden Trio war fame, disclosed that he and Golden Girl Hermione Granger have called it quits on their passionate relationship. Weasley revealed in exclusive interviews to select reporters that he had long been suspicious that Granger was playing around, but was too devoted to accept the truth.
It all came to a head when Weasley took Granger on a whirlwind romantic evening two days ago and Granger confessed to illicit affairs. Weasley, heartbroken, has thanked his numerous fans for their support during this tumultuous time...(Article continued on page 3)'
Alongside the article was a large photograph of Ron in his Chudley Cannons uniform holding up a trophy.
"One, he's never even won a bloody trophy," Hermione hissed, jabbing at the photo, "Two, I admitted to a kiss not 'illicit affairs.' Three, going to watch him get drunk with Quidditch players and sign autographs is hardly a romantic evening. Four, since when has he been too devoted?!"
"Hey, 'Mione, we both know better than most that the gossip pieces in the papers and magazines are far from accurate," Harry said calmly, "And we also knew that Ron would have a big temper flare over this… Lets just be glad it wasn't in the form of a screaming match to your face."
"Yeah, because having my name dragged through the mud via the media is so much better," Hermione said sarcastically.
"Look, let's just go out for brunch and forget this whole thing," Harry said soothingly, "We can go to that place where we never have to deal with media."
"Fine," Hermione said glumly.
After showering and getting changed, Harry and Hermione headed off to the Squawking Hippogriff, a homely eatery-bar that was often frequented by more prominent figures of the wizarding world due to the protective charms designed to keep the media at bay.
They had just sat down and ordered their food when a familiar face came over to their table.
"Hey guys! I heard Hermione was back in town," Ginny Weasley greeted with a smile. Ron's younger sister was athletic and had long auburn hair that flowed just past her shoulders. Hermione's gaze absent-mindedly ran down Ginny's toned body in her tight jeans and leather jacket before remembering her realisation about her sexuality and catching herself.
Gods, how did I not realise earlier that I'm attracted to women?! Hermione thought weakly, rethinking all of her previous confidence in her attention to detail.
"Y-yeah, hey Gin," Hermione smiled awkwardly, "How's things?"
"Better than you, probably," Ginny said with a sympathetic smile, "I saw Ron leaked your breakup to the press, the twat. D'you know I'm still trying to get into the Holyhead Harpies and he has the nerve to boast about being in the Cannons? I mean, at least I'm trying to get in on legitimate skill rather than fame."
"Yeah… For what its worth, I just kissed someone else. It was a stupid mistake that I wish I could take back. But, I didn't have numerous illicit affairs like they're saying," Hermione said sheepishly, "Not that it makes it any better. Anyway, I'm sure you'll make the Harpies team soon and it'll feel that much better that you earned it properly."
"Thanks, 'Mione," Ginny said with a grin, "And don't worry about Ron. He'll calm down eventually. But… erm… Mum did say that you can't come to the Burrow. That'll die down too, of course!"
"Of course," Hermione said morosely. Ginny flashed her another sympathetic smile.
"It was good seeing you, 'Mione," Ginny said, "We should catch up sometime soon."
"For sure," Hermione replied as Ginny walked away to return to her table. They used to hang out all the time, back in the day. Before all the fame and media and intensity.
"Should've known we would run into familiar faces here," Harry said with a smile as their food arrived.
"I just… I forgot how much all this can be," Hermione said exasperatedly.
"Its fine, 'Mione," Harry said encouragingly, "No media here… And you heard Gin! Molly and Ron will be over it in no time!"
Hermione rubbed her temples.
"I'm gonna head home this afternoon," Hermione replied, "I just need some time to process things."
Hermione apparated into the cottage as Fleur was returning from another run. Fleur walked up to Hermione, beaming.
"Hermione, you're back!" Fleur chirped happily. She was in short running shorts and a tank and was covered in a sheen of sweat. Her long platinum blonde hair was in a high ponytail that was hanging down her back. Hermione felt her stomach jerk uncomfortably at how sexy Fleur looked.
"Uh, yeah," Hermione said dismissively, shaking her head and turning away from Fleur. It was too soon to be confronted by this again.
"Wait," Fleur said softly, putting her hand on Hermione's shoulder, "I've been doing a lot of thinking while you were away… I want to talk about what happened between us."
Hermione wrenched her shoulder out of Fleur's grip and whirled to face her.
"No!" Hermione exclaimed, "Don't you understand?! It's just made everything worse!"
"Worse?" Fleur echoed, raising her eyebrows. Her chest was still heaving from her run and Hermione was trying her best not to get distracted by it.
"The media, Ron, Ron's mum… They're all a million times worse now. All because you had to go flirting with me to try and get another rebound under your belt!" Hermione shouted. She felt like all the exasperation, confusion and irritation she had been bottling up for months was escaping in this rant. She knew she was being unfair on Fleur, but she couldn't stop herself.
"I… I'm sorry… It was unfair to flirt with you," Fleur said finally, "But I didn't have anything to do with your relationship with Ron, his mother or the media,"
"You… You… You're just so…" Hermione raged, trailing off as she realised she wasn't sure what she was going to say.
"I'm what?" Fleur asked, cocking her head to one side.
Hermione closed the gap between them in an instant, pressing her lips to Fleur's and wrapping her arms around the blonde's slight waist. Fleur's arms moved around Hermione's neck as the brunette pushed her against the nearest wall.
Hermione bit down on Fleur's bottom lip, eliciting a gasp from the blonde. Hermione slipped her tongue into Fleur's mouth, instantly remembering how good it felt the first time she had kissed her. She felt a pang of arousal as Fleur let out a soft moan.
Hermione's hands moved from Fleur's waist and up her toned back before running down again to grab the blonde's firm ass. Her eyes were closed in pleasure as she made out with Fleur, but they snapped open as she realised what she was doing and stumbled backwards.
"No! This can't happen again," Hermione said abruptly.
Fleur, blushing a light pink and looking flustered, raised her eyebrows.
"Why not?" Fleur asked. Hermione averted her eyes, not even daring to look at Fleur.
"Because! I'm not going to invite more awful media stories! I'm not going to be another notch on your rebound bedpost!" Hermione spluttered.
"You're just confused, Hermione," Fleur replied softly, "Stop worrying so much about what other people think."
"Stop, Fleur," Hermione said in a strangled tone, "Its not happening again."
"You're just confused, Hermione," Fleur replied softly, "Stop worrying so much about what other people think."
"Stop, Fleur," Hermione said in a strangled tone, "It's not happening again."
Fleur looked at Hermione for a moment, her light pink blush slowly fading. Hermione wished in that moment that she knew Legilimency. She crossed her arms, hoping it would project a confidence to Fleur that she was definitely not feeling on the inside.
"Perhaps I am the one who should be saying it's not happening again, non?" Fleur said with a sudden smirk, "You are the one who has kissed me both times."
Hermione was thrown. She hadn't expected Fleur to react like this. Not that she knew how Fleur would react to anything, exactly. The girl was still an enigma to her.
"I…" Hermione said, before trailing off.
Fleur smirked again before turning on her heel and walking out.
Hermione was stunned. Did Fleur really just brush the whole thing off like that?
Hermione shook her head, trying not to overthink it. But as she went and sat at the table, she couldn't help but wonder. Had Fleur smirked about it all because she was trying to make the situation more comfortable for Hermione? Or because she just genuinely did not care? Hermione couldn't help but feel a twinge of hurt at the latter.
Hermione sighed, turning to the list of sea creatures she could study. The neat little list that Fleur had written up for her was very helpful, and she soon narrowed it down to two possible options. Reading up on both, Hermione forgot about her troubles. The more engrossed she was in her research, the more she was able to push away thoughts of Ron, the media and her attraction to women.
A clanging in the kitchen snapped Hermione out of her focus on her studies. She looked up, startled, to see Fleur emerging from the kitchen with two plates of salad. She placed one beside Hermione and sat down to eat her own.
Hermione watched her carefully. Fleur appeared entirely unaffected by their awkward conversation earlier. She seemed to be in one of her reserved moods, not bothering to attempt conversation and instead contentedly eating her dinner.
"I can do the cleaning up since you made dinner," Hermione said finally, wanting to break the silence.
"Merci," Fleur said with a warm smile.
Definitely back to normal.
Hermione was conflicted. She should feel relieved that Fleur had easily settled back into their platonic domestic arrangement. But a part of her felt bothered by the fact that Fleur could be so unfazed by kisses that were being replayed in Hermione's own head in a confusing loop.
The next morning, Hermione awoke with a flail. The memory of her dreams were already fading as she awoke, but she blushed as she recalled that she had definitely dreamt of Fleur.
She took a long cold shower in an attempt to further banish the memories of her dreams before getting changed and heading out to the living area. Fleur was sitting on the couch leafing through letters. Hermione felt her stomach twist as she recalled Bill telling her that she often received numerous love letters.
"Anything interesting?" Hermione asked, trying to ignore the squirming of her stomach. The temptation to move close enough to glimpse Fleur's mail was suddenly quite strong.
"Oui, there is a big gala event on," Fleur replied, pulling an ornate card out from the mail and passing it to Hermione, "You're invited."
"An anniversary of the war?" Hermione said hollowly. The thought of the war momentarily stunned her, making her forget all about Fleur and her mail.
"It might be nice to see the other Order members," Fleur offered in a positive tone. Hermione nodded.
"I'll see if Harry and Ginny got invited," Hermione replied absently, walking over to the table. A small mug of coffee was waiting beside her notes again.
"I'm going for a swim," Fleur said, putting down the stack of mail and going outside.
Hermione nodded as she turned to her notes, sipping at the cup of coffee. Her mind was full of thoughts about how awful the gala would be, because there would undoubtedly be a focus on the Golden Trio. A focus on the sacrifices made along the way. Perhaps even a large media presence. Ron would likely be in attendance too.
But Hermione considered what Fleur had said… It would be quite nice to catch up with some of the other people she had scarcely seen since the war. Now she had space at Shell Cottage, she was feeling quite guilty about how little she had kept in contact with some of her friends. Hermione bit her lip, taking out a piece of parchment and penning a letter to Ginny.
The next week went by in relative monotony, Hermione continuing to work on setting up her next academic project and Fleur continuing to go to work. Each morning, Hermione would find a coffee and a breakfast morsel carefully left for her by Fleur, who had either gone to work or out for some exercise.
Although Fleur had ceased flirting with her, Hermione was still frequently having overwhelming dreams in which her blonde housemate was a feature. But she was calmed by the relaxing return to domesticity in the house. Hermione focussed instead on her studies and the upcoming gala. She had arranged to meet Ginny at her flat in the city and get ready with her, going to the gala together. Ginny was just as fed up with media attention as Hermione was, and they were planning on arriving late to miss most of the fanfare and flurry of media.
Hermione stood next to Ginny, feeling awkward in her gown and heels. She rarely attended formal evenings. Ginny had helped her with her hair and makeup at least, which made her feel a little more confident in herself.
The two were sipping champagne when Harry approached them, dressed in ink-black dress robes and his hair appearing tamed for once.
"Evening, ladies," Harry greeted with a smile, sweeping a flute of champagne off a nearby waiter's tray.
"I see you also arrived late to avoid the worst of the media," Hermione said with a smile. Harry grinned back.
"Yeah, but it's okay, Ron gave them enough of a show for the lot of us," Harry said with a laugh. He nodded through the crowd at the redhead in the distance.
Ron was wearing a dragon hide jacket over his dress robes and ghastly sunglasses. His hair was once again slicked back in a Malfoy-esque style. Ginny shook her head.
"I've never met anyone that loves fame as much as my brother," Ginny said.
Hermione frowned and changed the subject. She was hoping not to run into Ron after he had leaked the story of their breakup to the media. It was still a sore subject for her and she wasn't sure if she could manage another argument with him just yet.
"So, how are your efforts going to get onto that Quidditch team?" Hermione asked Ginny. Ginny grinned broadly.
"The Holyhead Harpies? I've been invited to their next round of try-outs," Ginny said, beaming, "Think I might actually get in this time."
"That's great, Ginny!" Harry exclaimed, "You know, I often toyed with the idea of playing Quidditch instead of being an Auror."
"I mean you can still play recreationally, even if you don't have time to play professionally," Hermione advised, "It's not like the two are mutually exclusive."
Harry cocked his head to one side, surprised. He obviously hadn't considered it before.
"Yeah, that's a good point," he conceded, "And I do miss it. I think I'll look into local teams I could join- Thanks 'Mione."
Hermione was content. She was glad she had come to the gala; it was quite nice to catch up with Ginny and Harry. Not to mention fascinating seeing all the old familiar faces around. Some people were in unsurprising couples, like Lavender and Dean Thomas. Others were in surprising pairings, like Luna Lovegood and Blaise Zabini.
"Woah," Ginny uttered beside Hermione, gaining her attention, "Love her or hate her… You gotta admit Phlegm looks… wow…"
Hermione's head snapped around so fast she could have got whiplash. Following the direction of many other turned heads in the room, Hermione saw the vision that was her housemate.
Fleur, already unnaturally beautiful, was looking even more elegant. She was wearing a silver gown with a neckline that plunged so low Hermione could see the top of her abs. Her chest was smooth enough that Hermione longed to touch it. The dress hugged at her lithe waist and hips before falling to the floor. The slit on the side that reached her mid thigh almost gave Hermione a heart attack. Her long silvery white-blonde hair was loose and cascading over her shoulders. She was wearing impossibly high heels. Fleur had also done her makeup for the occasion, sporting a bright red lipstick and her eyes smouldering with darker lashes than usual. This contrasted fantastically with the choker of large diamonds around her neck. This was no demure Fleur Delacour-Weasley. This was Fleur Isabelle Delacour, heir to the prestigious Delacour estate, in all her glory.
"She… She didn't tell me she was invited…" Hermione said in a stunned manner. Her knees were weak. She felt like her mouth was dry and other parts of her… were less than dry.
"She's gonna break Bill's heart even more showing up looking like that," Ginny said ruefully.
"Oh, Bill's here?" Harry asked conversationally. Hermione didn't even hear Ginny's response. She was still transfixed by Fleur. She wondered if this is what it felt like being subject to the infamous Veela thrall.
"Oh guys, I haven't seen you in ages!" a familiar voice boomed loudly near Hermione's ear. She reluctantly tore her eyes from Fleur to greet a tall and lanky Neville. Neville threw his arms around each of them, making sure to ask how they had all been.
"Hi Fleur," Harry said suddenly. Hermione whirled around frantically. Fleur had indeed approached them, a polite smile playing at her lips.
"Good evening," Fleur greeted in her purring accented voice. She leaned forward elegantly and kissed Harry on each cheek, then Ginny, then Neville. As she kissed Hermione's cheeks she paused momentarily.
"For the record, it was never my intention to use you as a notch on my bedpost," Fleur murmured under her breath, before pulling back, smiling politely and gliding away from the group.
"Nice to see Fleur again," Neville said, "I always forget about how stunning she looks," he added, noting the turning heads that followed Fleur as she walked across the room.
Hermione barely heard Neville. Her mind was whirring in overtime, trying to process what Fleur had said to her.
"Oh god, what's she doing here?" Ginny said suddenly, still looking in the same direction as Neville. Hermione followed her gaze to see none other than Pansy Parkinson talking to Fleur. Hermione narrowed her eyes. Pansy had always clashed with her at school… A rival at best, an enemy at her worst.
"Well, she was never actually involved in the war at all… on either side," Neville shrugged. Ginny looked outraged.
"Yeah, never mind that she's a Slytherin and was best mates with Crabbe, Goyle and Malfoy!" Ginny exclaimed.
"She's got you there, Nev," Harry said in agreement.
Hermione silently watched in horror as Fleur not only laughed at something that Pansy had said, but accepted a drink from her.
The night was a horrible one for Hermione. Not only had Pansy continued to keep Fleur's attention for the entirety of the evening, but despite Hermione's best efforts, she had ended up in a conversation with a drunk Ron. As the drinks had flowed, he had gone from hostilely avoiding her to seeking her out for a seemingly peacemaking conversation.
"Yeah, so I'm sorry how all that spun out in the media," Ron said, running a hand through his hair, his sunglasses still on, "It's tough for us to get a break as celebrities."
"Yeah," Hermione said absently, staring over his shoulder as Pansy drew closer to Fleur to admire her diamond choker.
"But you have to admit… You kind of had it coming by cheating on me," Ron said, frowning, "I can't believe you would do something like that. You're the one I always trusted the most."
"Yeah… can you excuse me?" Hermione said absently, pushing past a ruffled Ron to approach Pansy and Fleur.
"Hello, Hermione," Fleur greeted with a serene smile, "Are you having a good evening? It is good seeing familiar faces again, non?"
"I didn't know you two knew each other," Hermione said directly, nodding at Pansy. Pansy smirked.
"We didn't. I recognised her from the Triwizard Tournament and I simply had to introduce myself," Pansy said, rather smugly in Hermione's opinion. It made Hermione's jaw tense.
"I didn't know you were coming to this too, Fleur," Hermione said, turning pointedly to look at Fleur and ignore Pansy.
"You never asked," Fleur answered with a light laugh. Hermione felt her stomach jerk at the sound of Fleur's laugh. She was enchanting.
"Oh… Well, do you want to head home together?" Hermione asked, playing with her hands nervously.
"She can't," Pansy cut in, with another one of her infuriatingly smug smiles, "We were just about to ditch this lame gala to go and get a drink together,"
"Oh… Should I wait for you?" Hermione asked, turning to Fleur again. She was trying to drown out the burning jealousy and irritation she was feeling towards Pansy. But Pansy pushed her over the edge again as she confidently put an arm around Fleur's delicate waist.
"I wouldn't wait up, Granger," Pansy smirked with a wink. Fleur laughed and swatted Pansy.
"Oh, you are incorrigible, Pansy!" Fleur laughed.
Hermione felt like she was about to scream. She swallowed heavily, trying to regain her composure.
"Right… Well… See you at home, I guess," Hermione said with forced neutrality, turning and walking away before Pansy could well and truly push her over the edge.
She grabbed another flute of champagne rather aggressively and downed it. She was seething. She couldn't believe that Pansy Parkinson of all people had swooped in and charmed Fleur. What did Fleur see in her anyway?! Hermione tried to console herself with the fact that it would just be another one night stand… But somehow the thought of Pansy having her way with Fleur all night just enraged her more.
"Hermione?" Ginny called, appearing in front of her, "Are you okay? You look just about ready to punch someone."
"I wish," Hermione growled darkly. Ginny looked at her carefully for a few moments before swiping an entire bottle of wine from a nearby catering table.
"Okay, 'Mione," Ginny said, taking her by the elbow, "We're going to slip outside and drink this and you're going to tell me all about whatever is going on with you."
Hermione had no choice but to nod dumbly, following Ginny.
Hermione was still so irritated she couldn't say a thing until she and Ginny had passed the bottle of wine back and forth a few times, taking deep swigs.
Ginny had found a secluded garden outside of the venue which was thankfully fenced off and out of the way enough that they would not be disturbed. The redhead didn't say much at first, allowing Hermione to gather her thoughts- and drink some wine.
"So, what has you so worked up?" Ginny asked finally, quirking an eyebrow. Hermione shook her head darkly.
"Pansy Parkinson," was all Hermione could say without wanting to scream. Ginny leaned against a tree, regarding Hermione curiously.
"I mean… It bothered me that she was there too… But I didn't look like I was about to punch someone," Ginny said, needling Hermione.
Hermione sighed. Ginny still knew her well, despite not having caught up regularly for a long time.
"She was all cosy with Fleur," Hermione said, trying not to sound as sulky as she felt. Ginny looked interested, as if she was mulling something over.
"Fleur's allowed to have her own friends… Even if they are a Slytherin," Ginny commented slowly. She was still looking at Hermione as if she was working something out. Hermione frowned.
"Yeah, I bet they're planning on getting friendly," Hermione muttered angrily. Ginny raised her eyebrows.
"You think… You think that Pansy and Fleur are going to… I mean, hell, I'm sure even the straightest girl would probably want to kiss Fleur… But Fleur? Why would she do something like that with Pansy?" Ginny asked.
Hermione looked conflicted. She snatched the bottle back from Ginny and drank deeply from it. Ginny watched her carefully. Finally Hermione passed the bottle back to Ginny.
"I saw Fleur take a woman home once, okay?" Hermione said agitatedly. Ginny cocked her head to one side. She was clearly assessing Hermione, but Hermione was at a loss as to how well Ginny was seeing through her.
"Why would it bother you if she took a woman home, Hermione? Why would it bother you if she did something with Pansy?" Ginny said softly, "I know for a fact you're not homophobic…"
Hermione blushed darkly and turned away, pacing away from Ginny.
"I don't want to talk about this anymore," Hermione said loudly, shaking her head. Ginny drank some of the wine before setting the bottle down and walking up to Hermione. She put a hand on the brunette's shoulder.
"I've dated a woman before," Ginny confessed into the night air. Hermione stiffened before whirling around to face Ginny.
"You have?!" Hermione exclaimed. She was entirely blindsided by the information.
"Yeah, during one of the times we fell out of touch," Ginny shrugged, "It only lasted a month or two."
"How come this has never come up before?" Hermione asked, surprised.
"Because it isn't a big deal, Hermione," Ginny said softly. Hermione squeezed her eyes shut, shaking her head and wishing that this were happening to anybody except herself.
She exhaled heavily.
"IthinkihaveacrushonFleur," Hermione rushed out breathlessly. Ginny smiled slightly.
"Sorry, what was that?" Ginny asked, quirking a brow. Hermione opened her eyes, wincing.
"I think I have a crush on Fleur," Hermione repeated, more slowly. Ginny engulfed her in a hug.
"Its completely normal, Hermione," Ginny chuckled near her ear, "Don't do that classic Hermione thing of overthinking it."
"I never had a chance to have normal teen years," Hermione said sadly, "I never had to deal with all these confusing feelings and crushes. I was too busy trying to keep Harry, Ron and I safe."
"Well, you have me to talk you through it," Ginny said with a grin, releasing Hermione, "Now… Have you told her how you feel?"
"No… but…" Hermione blushed darkly again, remembering the kisses she had shared with Fleur in the heat of the moment.
"But?" Ginny prompted patiently.
"But I've kissed her," Hermione said, feeling impossibly embarrassed, "Then I told her it can never happen again."
"You what?!" Ginny yelped, "You made out with Fleur Delacour… And then you told her it can't happen again?! What is wrong with you, Hermione?"
"When did you become such a fan of Fleur," Hermione said defensively, crossing her arms, "You were calling her Phlegm earlier this evening."
"I was, but that doesn't mean I'm blind!" Ginny retorted, "Besides, you barely ever get feelings for anyone… There must be something there to be driving you so crazy."
"I just… I don't want to be one of her rebounds… I don't want to be another one night stand like that other woman," Hermione said.
"I suppose that's understandable," Ginny reasoned, though she didn't seem convinced.
Ginny and Hermione spent the rest of the evening under the stars, talking through sexuality. Hermione wanted to know more about Ginny's past with women, Ginny wanted to make Hermione more comfortable with her feelings towards women. In the end, Hermione felt a lot more relaxed. By the time she was getting ready to apparate home, she felt considerably lighter.
As she got home to Shell Cottage and headed to her room, her stomach sank as she noticed that Fleur was not yet home. Hermione shut her bedroom door tightly behind her, casting a strong silencing charm. She didn't think she could take hearing Fleur with Pansy if something did happen.
Frowning, Hermione changed and climbed into bed, staring at the ceiling in the dark. As she shut her eyes, her mind turned back to what Fleur had uttered in her ear when she had greeted her at the gala. She wouldn't have just been a notch on her bedpost?
The next morning, Hermione awoke with a yawn. She checked her watch and saw that it was after eleven. She had slept in, longer than she had in some time.
After getting ready for the day, Hermione padded into the living area, sitting down at the table with her stack of notes. She frowned when she noticed that the coffee she was so accustomed to Fleur leaving her was not there.
"Je suis désolé," Fleur said, hurrying into the room, apologising as if she had read Hermione's mind, "I got home late last night so slept in… and now I am in a hurry to leave—I had no time to make you a coffee like I normally do,"
"It's okay," Hermione said cautiously, before finally asking, "How was the rest of your night?"
Fleur was in disarray. She was wearing a short skirt and a plain top and had a pair of heels clutched under her arm. She was frantically trying to put in a pair of dangling earrings.
"It was good," Fleur replied with a smile, "Pansy took me to a lovely little bar with a fantastic view over the city. We stayed quite late having drinks and talking before I left to go home."
Fleur grinned wider with triumph as she got her earrings in. She now turned to tying her hair up in a knot on her head.
"Oh... Home alone?" Hermione asked with feigned innocence, busying herself with her papers. She suddenly felt much better.
"Oui," Fleur replied, messing up her hair before attempting to tie it up again, "I had a very good sleep considering how late I got home."
"I bet," Hermione said, trying not to look too relieved, "So, what are your plans for the day?"
Fleur finished tying up her hair and then sat quickly on the sofa to put on her heels. She looked up briefly with a smile.
"I am going on a date, actually," Fleur replied lightly. Hermione felt her stomach uncomfortably drop.
"Oh," Hermione said in a falsely cheerful tone, "I don't think you've been on a date before in the whole time I have lived here."
"I feel ready to get back to dating," Fleur replied simply, standing up and brushing herself down, "Do I look okay to apparate?"
"You look stunning," Hermione replied honestly, her chest aching a little. She didn't want to hurt herself further but couldn't help but ask the question, "Who is the date with?"
"Pansy," Fleur replied, "She is so funny. She had me laughing so much last night. I'd better go though, I'm already running late. See you later!"
And before Hermione could even reply, Fleur had turned on the spot and apparated away. Hermione threw her book angrily across the room with a frustrated growl. So Fleur hadn't been being cryptic when she said Hermione wouldn't have been a notch on her bedpost… She had meant she was actually ready for dating. Hermione scrunched up the papers on the table and stormed from the table to the kitchen, leaning heavily on the counter.
Hermione fell into a type of despair… Even if Fleur was ready for dating… Why would she date someone like Hermione? Hermione felt plain, boring… nerdy. At school, she had never been one of the girls that boys would have crushes on. It had been unbelievable enough that Fleur had wanted to flirt with her, let alone kiss her or entertain the thought of dating her.
Sure, Fleur had done many attentive things for her, like make her coffees and meals… And she had shown a lot of interest in getting to know Hermione… But that had already fallen off within a day of Pansy asking her on a date. Even if Hermione did have a chance with Fleur, she had almost certainly missed that window of opportunity.
Defeated, Hermione set about making her coffee the muggle way. The dull ache in her chest accompanied the heavy feeling in her stomach.
She tightened her lip. She was Hermione Granger. She was fair, she was intelligent, she was a Gryffindor. She would do the right thing and simply accept that she had missed her chance.
To Hermione's great displeasure, Fleur continued to go on dates throughout the next two weeks with Pansy. It appeared that Hermione would have to endure the supreme irritation of her school rival winning over her crush.
On one particular morning, Hermione came out one morning to see Pansy lounging on the couch in the living area of Shell Cottage. Part shocked, part annoyed, Hermione tried to ignore her. But Pansy had spotted her and sported a wide smile.
"Morning Granger," Pansy smirked, "I knew you would be the lazy sleep in type,"
"It's barely eight," Hermione replied irritably.
Fleur came gliding out of the kitchen, two cups of coffee in her hands. Hermione instinctively reached a hand out before Fleur made a beeline towards Pansy.
"Good morning, Hermione," Fleur purred, "I am sorry, if I had known you were up I would have made you a coffee too."
She sat beside Pansy on the couch, handing her the other cup of coffee.
"Thanks, babe," Pansy said, putting an arm around Fleur. Hermione felt her jealousy raging to the surface again. She had to look away when Pansy shot her a smug grin.
"Hermione, I always meant to ask, what do Muggles do for fun on rainy evenings?" Fleur asked, nodding at the thundery day outside.
"Muggles?" Pansy asked Fleur, raising her eyebrows with great scepticism.
"Now, Pansy, I told you it is important to me that you get along with Hermione," Fleur chided her, "She is a close friend of mine."
Hermione felt a simultaneous pang of hurt and happiness at being referred to as Fleur's "close friend." Pansy nodded dismissively.
"Erm, well, I suppose most Muggle households would watch something on the telly," Hermione said, trying her best to do the right thing. After all, she was the one that had told Fleur that nothing could happen between them. Fleur had referred to her as a close friend. She had to pull her head in and be a normal friend.
"What is a… Telly?" Fleur asked, her mouth playing with the word clumsily. Hermione laughed despite herself. It was adorable watching Fleur learn Muggle words.
"A television," Hermione explained, "People use them to watch stories, like in books… But in moving picture form. Like watching a play in a wizarding photograph. Except with sound."
"Ooh, that sounds fun!" Fleur exclaimed with the most enthusiastic grin Hermione had seen from her yet. Pansy seemed to pick up on this too, leaning forward eagerly.
"I could get you one," Pansy offered, "We could watch stories tonight,"
"Non, non," Fleur said, waving a hand, "I have my own money, I can get one myself. But it would be lovely to watch something on it tonight. Would you like to join us, Hermione?"
Looking at Pansy with her arm around Fleur was driving Hermione crazy and she couldn't think of anything worse than hanging out with the 'happy couple.' Unfortunately, her sense of duty kicked in and she found herself replying with an overly-enthusiastic "sure."
And so Hermione found herself in a Muggle electronics store with Pansy and Fleur, watching from a distance as Fleur tried not to look too overwhelmed at the Muggle shop assistant demonstrating how a particular TV worked.
"Jealous?" Pansy sneered, appearing beside her.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Hermione said, not even bothering to take her eyes off Fleur. Pansy snorted.
"Please, I see the way you look at her. It's killing you that I got the girl and you didn't," Pansy said with a triumphant grin. Hermione glanced sideways at her, trying to keep her temper. She couldn't understand what Fleur could possibly see in the former Slytherin. Sure, Pansy was looking great these days. She had long wavy black hair, tanned skin and grey eyes paired with a lean figure. The infuriatingly cute little button nose that Hermione used to say made her look pug-faced. But her personality? Merlin.
"I don't know what she sees in you," Hermione said, finally letting one of her thoughts escape her lips. Pansy grinned wider.
"Some people find my Slytherin side amusing," Pansy said happily, "While certain Gryffindors choose to judge me for it."
"Please," Hermione scoffed, "I don't dislike you for you being a Slytherin. I dislike you because you're insufferable."
"You just hate me getting anything you want," Pansy said, rolling her eyes, "At school it was whenever I got a better grade than you… Now it just happens to be Fleur."
Both girls suddenly turned their frowns into cheerful smiles as Fleur approached them.
"Great news, I am buying one," Fleur said with a smile, "The sales assistant also helped me select some feelms to watch,"
Hermione couldn't help but smile wider at Fleur's adorable attempt to pronounce the word 'films.'
"That's great, Fleur," Hermione smiled as they walked towards the checkout for Fleur to pay. Fleur beamed at her.
"You will have to help me set it up for me though, I am afraid I still have no idea how it works," Fleur smiled. Hermione grinned proudly and Pansy looked a little put out.
"Yeah, no problem, Fleur," Hermione said, shooting a smug look of her own at Pansy, "I understand these devices perfectly."
Pansy ran her hand down Fleur's back before possessively putting her hand on Fleur's ass. The smile fell off Hermione's face as Pansy looked triumphantly at her.
"Pansy!" Fleur laughed goodheartedly, swatting Pansy's hand away, "Let me pay, you incorrigible woman."
She strode towards the checkout confidently, pulling out the Muggle currency as if she used it all the time. Hermione shot a glare at Pansy.
"Thought you weren't jealous," Pansy smirked, before walking over to stand beside Fleur. Hermione gritted her teeth.
Later that night, Hermione had proudly set up the TV, much to the delight of Fleur. Pansy was sitting on the couch drinking a wine and scowling at Hermione, clearly jealous of how happy she was making Fleur.
"So what film do you want to watch?" Hermione asked, as the weather raged loudly outside. She shivered as a particularly loud crack of thunder rang out outside the cottage. Fleur smiled devilishly.
"A scary one?" Fleur asked, "I always loved reading horror novels as a child."
"I can never quite pin you down, Delacour," Hermione said with a laugh, setting it up. Fleur laughed back.
When Hermione turned back to the couch, she was a little put out to see Fleur sitting in the middle seat, so that she was sitting as closely to Pansy as possible. Hermione inwardly groaned. She wasn't sure she could ever bear Fleur dating the Slytherin. Dutifully, Hermione took her seat on the other side of Fleur as the film started.
Only ten minutes in, it soon became apparent that Fleur was definitely not a horror film person. With each dramatic crescendo of music, Fleur would tense and squirm. Whenever there was a shock moment, Fleur would jump noticeably or let out a helpless yelp. Hermione found it incredibly cute. She had to admit, since entering the dating world again, Fleur had been showing more of her softer side.
The killer in the film suddenly appeared behind one of the lead characters and Fleur let out a scream, her hand suddenly clamping down on Hermione's upper thigh. Hermione tensed as she guiltily felt arousal slip through her at Fleur gripping her thigh. This was soon replaced by the familiar burn of jealousy, as Pansy put an arm comfortingly around Fleur. Fleur removed her hand.
As the film reached its peak, Fleur even buried her face into Pansy's neck to avoid watching. Hermione couldn't bear to look, but she could practically sense the smirk on Pansy's lips. The Gryffindor kept her eyes firmly glued to the television.
Finally, the film came to an end and Hermione got up and stretched.
"Well, it's quite late now," Hermione commented pointedly, looking in the direction of her unwanted Slytherin houseguest. Pansy was leaning back on the couch comfortably, her arm still possessively around Fleur. Fleur was still nestled into Pansy, resting her head on her shoulder. It was hard for Hermione to look at.
"I could watch another with Fleur while you go to bed," Pansy said, looking at Fleur with interest. But Fleur stretched and sat up.
"Non, I have work tomorrow morning. I should go to bed," Fleur yawned, standing up. Pansy stood up too, standing closely to her.
"Do you want me to stay in case you have nightmares?" Pansy offered in a cutesy voice, her hands playing at Fleur's waist. Hermione could barely restrain herself and had to walk away before she might actually scream.
"Non, I am fine," Fleur replied. Hermione relaxed.
"It looks quite stormy outside," Pansy commented, "It'll be dreadful heading out in this weather."
This time Hermione couldn't resist turning around and bellowing at Pansy in a false-cheery tone.
"You won't get rained on if you apparate, Pans!" Hermione said loudly. Fleur looked at Pansy and nodded.
"She is right, you should apparate," Fleur said, seemingly putting the issue to bed. Hermione walked into the hallway, pausing just outside of the door in the hopes of overhearing Pansy get shot down or dumped.
"I'm sorry, Fleur," Pansy said, in a far more relaxed tone than when Hermione had been in the room, "I just… I really want you, Fleur."
Hermione felt the jealousy in her stomach like the twist of a hot knife. How easily Pansy could speak the words that had plagued Hermione! Hermione held her breath, fearing Fleur's answer but unable to pull herself away from listening in.
"I'm not ready just yet, Pansy," Fleur said softly. Hermione almost let her hopes raise, but then she heard the unmistakeable sound of kissing and drew away from the doorway, her chest aching.
When Fleur came into the hallway a little later, she called Hermione's name. Hermione was still awake, sitting on the edge of her bed with her head in her hands, but she refused to answer. Better to pretend to be asleep behind her closed door than face Fleur. She couldn't look at the blonde right now with the ache of knowing Pansy was taking everything that Hermione had been able to have, but too scared to take.
The next morning, Hermione awoke blearily, regret washing over her yet again. She sat up in bed and penned a letter to Ginny. She would go and stay with the redhead in the weekend. She needed a break from Pansy rubbing Fleur in her face.
After sending her letter, she looked at her paperwork before deciding to go down to the beach. She headed silently along the winding path to the sand before sitting down and gazing out at the waves. How could she have messed things up so badly?
Almost as if the world was listening to her, there was a splashing in the sea and Fleur arose from the water, throwing her hair back. After eagerly gulping in the fresh air, Fleur towards the shore, waving when she saw Hermione. Hermione felt her breath catch in her throat as Fleur swam towards her before emerging from the water.
Blushing, Hermione used her wand to get Fleur a towel, which the bikini-clad blonde accepted gratefully before coming to sit beside Hermione.
They sat in silence for a while, simply watching the ocean together. After a while, Hermione found her voice again.
"I thought you said you had work this morning," Hermione said, referring to what Fleur had told Pansy the previous night.
"Non," Fleur replied, a smile playing at her lips, "I didn't want to hurt Pansy's feelings, but I just didn't feel like watching another film with her."
Hermione couldn't hide her smile.
"So… uh, how are things going with her?" Hermione asked cautiously. Fleur looked at her curiously.
"She makes me laugh," Fleur said, "She is cute, easy to spend time with… But I am not sure if there is much else there."
"Good," Hermione sighed, without thinking.
"What do you mean by that?" Fleur asked. Her face was infuriatingly neutral again.
"I can't stand her," Hermione replied simply. She wasn't sure if she imagined it, but she could have sworn she saw a hint of disappointment flash across Fleur's face before being carefully hidden with another smile.
"Yes, she told me that you two have never got along," Fleur replied, "I'm sorry, I had no idea when I first met her."
"It's okay… I guess I'm just surprised that you're dating her," Hermione said, rubbing the back of her neck.
"It is nice seeing someone who isn't blinded by the Veela thrall," Fleur replied, rubbing her hands up and down her legs in an effort to ease her goosebumps.
"That doesn't mean she isn't just with you for your looks," Hermione said, somewhat sulkily. Fleur's face fell.
"Well I'm not going to spend all my time alone fawning over somebody who doesn't want to be with me," Fleur snapped, standing up and drawing her towel closely around herself. She swept away rapidly.
Hermione frowned, reeling at Fleur's reaction. Could it possibly mean what Hermione hoped it meant? That Fleur had harboured actual feelings for her? Hermione was internally conflicted… She was absolutely terrified of putting herself out on a limb with Fleur and being shot down. But also she was horrified at the thought of the fact that she had not only missed a shot at Fleur… But missed a shot at a potentially very interested Fleur.
"Fuck," Hermione uncharacteristically swore, her Gryffindor bravery finally kicking in. She scrambled to her feet, eager to chase Fleur down and confess her feelings. Clumsily, quickly, Hermione hurried up the windy path to the cottage. She slammed the door open, chest heaving. Fleur was nowhere to be seen. Frantically, Hermione swept through the rest of the cottage, checking the bathroom and Fleur's room. She was gone.
Hermione sighed, leaning heavily against a wall and putting her head in her hands.
Over the next two days, Hermione didn't see Fleur at all, further confirming her interpretation that Fleur had admitted having feelings for her. Hermione continued to prepare meals for two, leaving Fleur portions out like she would when Fleur was working on busy projects. But the leftovers would go untouched.
By the time the weekend came, Hermione was incredibly anxious that she had just further pushed Fleur into Pansy's smug arms.
Hermione only hoped that staying with Ginny would take her mind off Fleur.
"So, how are things with Fleur?" Ginny asked, as Hermione and her settled into the sofa at her flat, "You know… After you finally accepted you were attracted to her."
"She's been dating Pansy," Hermione said bitterly, sipping her wine. At least Ginny had waited until they had settled in for the evening and had a few wines to broach the subject.
Ginny pulled a face.
"Pansy Parkinson?!" Ginny exclaimed, "Gods, guess you were right about them at the gala. I honestly never would have pictured them together."
"Its pretty hard seeing them together," Hermione admitted, "We watched a Muggle film together the other night and Pansy was all over Fleur. She's rubbing it in my face!"
"Of course she would, the Slytherin bitch," Ginny said, shaking her head. Hermione loved that finally she was in sympathetic company. Ginny had a way of making her feel better when she disliked someone.
"She even said it to me, that she could tell I was into Fleur!" Hermione continued to rant, feeling an incredible catharsis from getting it out of her system, "Oh! And then she went and grabbed Fleur's ass in public!"
"Parkinson is honestly the worst, I swear," Ginny said tipsily, "Maybe even worse than Malfoy."
"And now after Fleur admitting she had feelings for me and me taking too long to respond… Pansy's probably finally shagging Fleur right now!" Hermione said wildly, swigging heavily from her wine.
"Oh Merlin… I hope not, for Fleur's sake," Ginny said, half horrified, half giggling. Her face turned serious as her wine-addled mind processed what Hermione had said. "Wait… Fleur admitted she had feelings for you?!"
"Yeah! Well, kind of," Hermione said, the wine bolstering her confidence, "I was a bit of a prat... I told her she can't be sure that Pansy isn't with her just for her looks and she said its better than fawning over someone that doesn't want to be with her… Then stormed off and I didn't see her for the rest of the week."
"Oh, yeah… That definitely means she has the hots for you," Ginny informed Hermione in a confident slur, opening a fresh bottle of wine.
"Well, what am I supposed to do now?" Hermione replied exasperatedly, "Wait until she comes back? Pansy will have got her hooks into her even more by then."
"Oh no… We can't let Pansy go shagging Fleur and stealing her from you before you can admit your feelings," Ginny said, standing up unsteadily, "Let's go!"
Vaguely, in the back of Hermione's drunken mind, she wondered if Ginny was encouraging her a little too much. But she was fired up and excited to be in sympathetic company.
"Where are we going?" Hermione asked, standing up.
"To Pansy's, duh," Ginny said, "I don't care if we have to drag her out of Pansy's bed, you are finally telling that Veela how you feel!"
Somehow, an incredibly drunk Ginny and Hermione found themselves at a shiny black door with a gold number and knocker on it. Ginny knocked enthusiastically at the door.
"Wait… Should we be doing this?" Hermione murmured loudly to Ginny. Her brain was foggily trying to keep pace with the wine. Ginny shrugged as the door swung open.
"Granger… Weasley… What are you doing here?" Pansy asked, surprised. She seemed entirely caught off-guard, in pyjamas and a silk dressing gown.
"Lookin' for Fleur you snake," Ginny slurred. Pansy smirked.
"Merlin… You guys are drunk," Pansy laughed, "Fleur isn't here. I haven't seen her since watching that Muggle television at Shell Cottage the other night."
Hermione narrowed her eyes. That wasn't going to let Pansy off the hook.
"You know I like her," Hermione said in a loud accusatory tone. Pansy smirked again.
"And why does that bring you here?" Pansy questioned, crossing her arms. She looked so infuriatingly smug.
"I… You can't sleep with her," Hermione said aggressively, "I have feelings for her."
"I am going to sleep with her," Pansy said firmly, stepping closer to Hermione challengingly, "And there's nothing you can do about it. You missed your shot, Granger. You're just going to have to study up on good silencing spells to try to drown out how loudly I'm gonna make her moan," Pansy finished with a goading grin.
Ginny shot Hermione an outraged look.
"You bitch!" Ginny exclaimed. Hermione drunkenly pulled out her wand, flicking it unsteadily before Pansy could do anything. A set of curtains in the background of Pansy's apartment promptly burst into flames.
"Oh, for fuck's sake," Pansy shouted angrily, "Get out of here!"
Pansy whipped out her wand, slamming the door in Ginny and Hermione's faces.
"Oh shit," Ginny giggled, turning to Hermione. Hermione drunkenly smiled.
"Well, that should keep her busy... Wait... Do you think she's gonna tell Fleur about this?"
Hermione made it home on Sunday afternoon, her head still aching slightly from her hangover. She walked into the cottage, stopping in her tracks.
Fleur was sitting patiently at the table, looking at her. She was drumming her manicured fingers on the tabletop. Evidently she had been waiting for Hermione.
"Fleur… You're back…" Hermione said slowly, stating the obvious. Fleur stood up from the table, striding towards her.
"Did you get drunk and set Pansy's curtains on fire?" Fleur asked, getting straight to the point. Her tone and face were painfully neutral.
"Erm… Ginny and I drank a bit too much last night," Hermione said sheepishly. It wasn't really an explanation, or even a confession, but it was all Hermione could manage.
"Why would you do that?" Fleur demanded, beginning to sound frustrated. Hermione balled her hands into fists. It was now or never.
"Because I have feelings for you," Hermione confessed.
Fleur was silent for a long time.
Hermione almost didn't dare to breathe, counting the seconds since she had spoken.
"Do you mean that?" Fleur finally said, in a quiet voice only just above a whisper. Hermione stepped forward boldly, putting her hands around Fleur's waist. It felt so right. Fleur bit her lip. Her pupils were dilated, but she was silent.
"Of course I mean it," Hermione said emphatically. She leaned in to kiss Fleur. The blonde turned her face slightly, causing Hermione to kiss her cheek instead.
"Hermione…" Fleur said gently. Hermione held Fleur tighter. She sensed something was off, but she didn't want it to be. She wanted Fleur to simply return her feelings, as she had before.
"What's wrong?" Hermione asked. A tear dropped down Fleur's cheek. Hermione was thrown, this was the most extreme emotion that Fleur had ever laid bare in front of her before.
"I can't…" Fleur replied in an unsteady voice, "When you first kissed me, I felt such a rush of feelings. It crushed me when you said you didn't mean for it to happen. Then when you broke up with Ron and kissed me again… It got my hopes up. I thought maybe... Well... It shattered me when you said that it couldn't happen again."
"Fleur… I never knew you felt so strongly," Hermione said, releasing Fleur in horror. She couldn't believe she had hurt Fleur so badly. She hadn't realised that Fleur had cared that much. Fleur shook her head.
"I hate showing emotion like this," Fleur exclaimed, wiping her eyes with embarrassment.
"Fleur… I…" Hermione was taken aback. This wasn't how she had pictured this going at all. She cupped Fleur's face in her hands, desperate to turn the situation around.
"Hermione," Fleur said in a choked voice, "I don't want to be hurt again."
"Fleur… I don't want to hurt you," Hermione said. Fleur stepped backwards, pulling her face out of Hermione's hands.
"I know you don't want to…" Fleur said softly, "But I just want to be happy."
"And you think that means dating Pansy?" Hermione asked.
"Pansy knows how she feels about me," Fleur replied, shaking her head, "She won't change her mind and hurt me."
Fleur turned on her heel and strode decisively from the room. Hermione heard her bedroom door shut firmly. Her stomach was sinking.
"I wont change my mind," Hermione said softly to the empty room.
Heya, if you've read my fics on Fanfiction.Net, you've probably read this one. But I've edited it a little for Ao3, fixing some of the clunky language and typos.
The next morning, Hermione woke up early. After a good sleep she was feeling less defeated and more hopeful. She was going to show Fleur how serious she was. She was going to make up for the hurt she had inadvertently caused the blonde during her confused and unsure period.
Hermione went into the kitchen, rolling up her sleeves. She got to work making pancakes and coffee the Muggle way and set it out on the table with an array of berries, fruits and syrups. She cleared the table of all of her books and papers, stacking them away neatly in a corner of the room, finally out of the way. The cottage was already looking more like its original tidy self.
Hermione then picked fresh flowers from the garden and placed them in a vase filled with water in the centre of the table. She charmed the food and coffee to stay warm (she had researched to find out the charm that Fleur had been using all this time), then packed her notebook and headed down to the sea to watch the little magical crab-like creatures she had settled on for her study.
She came back much later, pleased to see that Fleur had eaten the breakfast she had left out for her. It felt good to return the gestures that she had taken for granted from Fleur for so long.
The complicated rejection she had received from Fleur had finally made Hermione see how selfish she had been.
As she sat down at the table, Fleur herself entered the room. If she was feeling awkward, she didn't show it. She was her normal reserved and composed self.
"Morning, Fleur," Hermione greeted.
"Thanks for breakfast," Fleur said graciously, "And the flowers are very nice."
Hermione's heart warmed. Fleur was so polite and kind. She almost couldn't believe she had originally written the blonde off as being rude and cold.
"I'm glad you liked them," Hermione said with a smile.
Fleur smiled back, before looking conflicted.
"I'm going to go for a run," Fleur said a little abruptly.
"Fleur," Hermione said, halting the blonde's movements, "I meant what I said last night. I totally respect your decision to keep dating Pansy. But, I just want you to know that I still have feelings for you and I'm going to wait for you… As long as it takes."
Fleur didn't reply but her shoulders noticeably tensed. She continued to stand rooted to the spot for a moment longer before finally nodding uncomfortably and heading out the door for her run.
Hermione sighed. She knew that Fleur would not immediately fall into her arms. She was far too careful with her heart for that. Fleur was full of self-protective measures, from her wall of reservedness to her occasional rudeness… She never intentionally placed herself in a situation where she could be hurt. Still, it was hard.
Hermione looked at her watch before apparating to Ginny's flat.
Ginny was lounging on her couch and jumped as Hermione appeared.
"Merlin, you scared me!" Ginny yelped.
"So… Fleur confronted me about setting Pansy's curtains on fire," Hermione said with no preamble. Ginny raised her hands in surrender.
"Okay… So I'll be the first to admit… Maybe getting drunk and going to Pansy's place to confront her wasn't the best strategy we've ever had," Ginny conceded. Hermione snorted.
"You think?" Hermione replied, "Anyway… I told her how I feel. But she's terrified of being hurt. She wants to keep dating Pansy because she's steady and doesn't change her mind like I have been."
"But she has-- or at least, had-- feelings for you too?" Ginny asked.
"Yes," Hermione replied with a wide smile, "So there's still hope. I just have to show her that I'm not going to change my mind… That I'm not scared or confused anymore."
"That's something you can only show through time," Ginny said sagely with a nod, "And you seriously can't change your mind again."
"I'm not going to," Hermione retorted, offended, folding her arms.
"Good," Ginny said with a smile, "And definitely no getting back with my fame-crazed brother."
Hermione pulled a disgusted face.
For the next week, Fleur was not around much. But as she got used to Hermione's more attentive and caring manner, they settled back into a calm, domestic arrangement. Hermione would spend much of her time down on the beach, doing her studies. When she wasn't at the little beach, she would be cleaning the cottage or doing nice little things for Fleur around the house.
By the second and third weeks, Fleur appeared comfortable enough around Hermione to spend time with her again. Neither of them mentioned feelings for each other. In fact, sometimes Pansy would even visit the cottage to spend time with Fleur while Hermione was still there.
True to her word, Hermione honoured Fleur's decision to keep dating the former Slytherin. She focussed instead on showing Fleur that she was steady and unwavering. Knowing that Fleur had held strong feelings for her, Hermione no longer felt threatened by Pansy. She knew that she just had to wait her out. She was confident that Fleur would leave her when she could see that Hermione was a credible option.
One morning, Fleur and Hermione were both having breakfast at the same time at the table when the morning mail arrived. Both received neatly written letters from Neville Longbottom.
"A party," Fleur said, reading the letter.
"Chance to catch up with us all," Hermione read aloud from her letter, "Sounds good actually. What do you think?"
"I'll see if Pansy wants to go," Fleur said, returning to her breakfast, "We had planned to go out to a night market that evening."
Hermione nodded in a friendly way, which seemed to please Fleur. Hermione pulled out a scrap of parchment and began to scrawl plans to meet Ginny before Neville's party.
Ginny and Hermione were standing in a corner of Neville's flat, sipping wine and already feeling a little tipsy.
"So, setting yourself up as the model future girlfriend is going well?" Ginny asked Hermione with a smirk.
"If you are referring to me showing her that I'm reliable and care about her, then yes, I'm still doing that," Hermione replied, sipping at her wine, "But for now I just have to deal with the fact she's dating Pansy."
"Eurgh, Parkinson of all people," Ginny said, pulling a face. She changed the subject quickly as Neville opened the door to the subject of their conversation: Fleur and Pansy.
There was a ripple of interest in the crowded room from people that did not already know that Fleur had been seeing Pansy. But as Luna was already in attendance with former Slytherin Blaise Zabini as her partner, it soon died down again. Pansy sat on a couch and pulled Fleur possessively to sit in her lap. As usual, she seemed incredibly smug to be showing off Fleur as her girlfriend. Hermione rolled her eyes and turned back to Ginny.
"I think Fleur is trying hard not to have any displays of affection with Pansy in front of me for the sake of my feelings," Hermione said, "Despite Pansy's best efforts."
"Well, that's promising! It shows she at least believes you have feelings for her," Ginny prompted. Hermione drank some more wine, enjoying the buzz.
"Yeah, well, its more about getting her to trust my feelings. I hurt her harder than I ever would have guessed. It makes sense that she wants to bet on the safe horse," she told Ginny. Ginny snorted.
"Whoever thought Pansy Parkinson would be the 'sensible, safe' option," Ginny retorted.
Harry approached the girls with Ron in tow. Hermione shot Harry an alarmed look at the sight of her ex, but he smiled easily. He seemed assured that Ron's temper wasn't acting up… Which Hermione wasn't entirely sure about.
"Hey guys, how's it going?" Harry chirped. He appeared slightly inebriated. Ron was in a similarly jolly mood, his arm slung around Harry's shoulder.
"No sunglasses today, Ron?" Ginny asked with a smirk.
"Harry convinced me to take them off," Ron replied obliviously, "Hey, we were thinking of getting a group together to play a drinking game if you're keen."
Hermione eyed him suspiciously before shrugging. What else was she going to do? Mope in a corner with Ginny all evening?
"All right, let's do it," Ginny chimed in. Ron looked at Hermione with surprise.
"Blimey, didn't think you were the type to play drinking games," he remarked. Hermione rolled her eyes, choosing not to fall into an argument with him. She would try and let the tentative peace between them last for the entirety of Neville's party.
Two separate drinking games later, Hermione was feeling well and truly buzzed. She couldn't stop openly staring at Fleur now. They were sitting in a small circle away from the rest of the party: Ron, Harry, Ginny, Neville, Dean, Lavender, Pansy, Fleur, Luna, Blaise and Hermione. Pansy, across the circle from Hermione, seemed to notice her staring at Fleur. Her smugness had grown and she had a tight arm around Fleur, often pecking her on the cheek.
Fleur, as she had got more intoxicated, had got less vigilant with keeping displays of affection from occurring in front of Hermione. Hermione found herself narrowing her eyes at Pansy despite herself. She had to rein herself in. She had told Fleur that she respected her decision to be with Pansy. But Merlin… Did Pansy have to be so obnoxious?!
"Oi, how abou' Truth or Dare?" Dean suggested. Ron bellowed his approval of the choice in next game.
Hermione, if she were sober, usually would have baulked at this game. In the Muggle world, this had been a fairly innocuous game played at school. But in the wizarding world, it involved placing a spell across the group that physically bound them to tell the truth or carry out the dare suggested. Drunk as she was, Hermione found herself nodding away with the group as the spells were cast.
The game commenced, with Luna being asked first by Dean. Luna selected Truth.
"Okay, when did you first begin getting with the Slytherin over there?" Dean asked, nodding at Blaise. Blaise raised his eyebrows, alarmed, as the charm obliged Luna to answer truthfully.
"We were fooling around on and off throughout our time at Hogwarts," Luna confessed, eliciting several surprised reactions from around the circle.
"No way!" Pansy yelped, "Blaise… You were the one that made up the Looney Lovegood nickname!"
"As an attempt to throw people off the scent," Luna shrugged, clearly not bothered. Blaise was rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly.
"Okay," Luna said dreamily, "Ginny… Truth or dare?"
"Dare," Ginny said bravely, grinning boldly. Blaise and Luna consulted quietly for a moment before grinning.
"We dare you to run naked around the block," Luna said, cocking her head to one side absently.
"Fine, no problem," Ginny said, the charm already forcing her to her feet. Ron yelped as Ginny began to disrobe and covered his eyes.
"Somebody tell me when it's over," Ron groaned.
Ginny disrobed quickly and Hermione raised her eyebrows. Damn, that Quidditch practice was keeping Ginny in shape! With a sly grin, a very naked Ginny ducked out of the room to run around the block.
Arriving back, a little flushed from running in the cold, Ginny quickly dressed again.
"Merlin, I'm glad there was no hint of media outside…" Ginny commented, "Although, I think I did scar a little old lady for life."
The room laughed. Hermione felt annoyed again as Pansy muttered something in Fleur's ear that caused the blonde to smile widely. How Hermione wished that that was her.
"Shall I pick Parkinson and get her to do or admit something humiliating?" Ginny whispered in Hermione's ear, following her line of sight.
"No… Then she would get a turn and she would just use it to do something horrible to me," Hermione replied grimly. Ginny nodded reluctantly, continuing her gaze around the potential victims in the circle before finding another suitable target.
"Dearest brother," Ginny grinned, looking at Ron, "Truth or dare?"
"Like I would trust you with a dare," Ron muttered darkly, "Truth."
"Is it true that you tip off the media to where you will be each day?" Ginny asked with a knowing smirk. Ron purpled as the charm began to loosen his tongue.
"Yes, it's true," Ron admitted. The circle erupted into roaring laughter, causing Ron to purple more and scowl. Hermione laughed heartily. Ron was hooked on fame, badly.
"Hermione," Ron said abruptly, interrupting the laughter. The group quietened to watch the tense interaction between the two exes.
"Truth," Hermione selected. She could feel Ginny tense at her side.
"Who did kiss when you were in a relationship with me?" Ron asked, his brows furrowed. You could hear a pin drop with the silence around the circle. Hermione inwardly struggled, trying to fight the charm that was forcing her to confess.
"Fleur," Hermione finally choked out. The whole circle was deathly silent. Everyone looked stunned, looking between Hermione and Fleur.
"Is everybody gay now all of a sudden?!" Lavender finally exclaimed, breaking the silence. Hermione risked a glance at Ron who seemed to be choking on his own saliva and looking wildly at Fleur. Hermione sighed. Thank God he was distracted by the attractiveness of his ex-girlfriend fooling around with a Veela to be angry again. Hermione couldn't say the same for Pansy, who looked absolutely livid. Fleur had put her hand on her arm soothingly and was murmuring something to her, but Pansy was too busy glaring daggers at Hermione.
Hermione tried to move on from the awkward situation by asking Lavender an innocuous question about her number of sexual partners, which thankfully gained the attention of most of the circle again.
"Pansy, truth or dare?" Lavender asked, turning to Pansy beside her. Pansy, still looking thoroughly irritated, hissed "truth."
"Okay… You always looked so cosy with Malfoy at Hogwarts. Which of the Slytherins have you actually been with?" Lavender asked. Blaise laughed and clapped his hands together, eager to hear the answer. Pansy scowled more but the charm was already working.
"Draco Malfoy, Daphne Greengrass…" Pansy struggled to fight the last answer from escaping her mouth, reddening as it blurted out, "Millicent Bullstrode."
Hermione and Ginny erupted into laughter, nudging each other. Pansy, now looking furious, turned to Fleur.
"Fleur, baby, truth or dare?" Pansy asked, her voice dangerously low.
Fleur, neutral as always, looked uncertain.
"Ah… dare," Fleur chose strategically. Hermione supposed this was to avoid placing herself in a situation where she may have to admit to feelings for Hermione. Pansy looked at Hermione, smirking devilishly as she voiced her dare.
"I dare you to give me a lapdance," Pansy said. Fleur blushed, shaking her head, embarrassed.
But the charm was already working and forcing her to her feet. Several of the boys around the circle leaned forward in their seats eagerly. Hermione gritted her teeth. It was a shitty move of Pansy clearly just designed to rub Hermione's face in her relationship again. Anyone who knew Fleur even remotely would know that the reserved and proud girl would be mortified at giving a lapdance in front of people.
Fleur began to sway seductively and her hair began to appear more silvery. It seemed the charm had inadvertently made Fleur release her thrall. Hermione, as a female, was not affected by the thrall, but she noticed the eyes of the males glaze over. Fleur leaned over, resting her hands on the top of Pansy's thighs before moving them down slowly. She dropped to the ground, parting Pansy's legs before slowly rising between them. Pansy let her hands roam possessively over Fleur as she moved. Fleur turned around to sit in Pansy's lap and roll her hips, flicking her hair over her shoulder.
"Jesus…" Ginny uttered beside Hermione. Even her mouth was dropping a little, "She is way too hot for Parkinson."
"Fuckin' Pansy," Hermione slurred. Fleur was now straddling Pansy, facing her, as Pansy grabbed her ass. Pansy smirked pointedly at Hermione from across the circle before pulling Fleur in for a kiss. This, at least, seemed to break the charm, and Fleur slid off Pansy's lap and returned to her seat, pulling her thrall back in. The men around the circle sighed and shook their heads as it passed.
Fleur looked embarrassed and annoyed, ignoring Pansy's attempt to kiss her cheek. Her eyes roamed the circle briefly before settling on Ginny with a glower.
"Ginny, truth or dare?" Fleur asked intently. Ginny mulled it over for a moment.
"Truth," Ginny settled on. Fleur, looking icily at Ginny seemed to already have a question ready.
"Have you ever had feelings for Hermione?" Fleur asked. Hermione's eyebrows raised. Was Fleur… jealous?
"Yes, years ago," Ginny answered simply with a shrug. This did not seem to settle Fleur, who still looked tense. Ginny smiled coyly.
"Hermione… truth or dare?" Ginny asked. Hermione looked quizzically at Ginny who seemed to be looking like she was scheming.
"Dare?" Hermione answered tentatively. Ginny smirked, a scheming look on her face.
"I dare you to kiss me," Ginny stated. Ron let out a noise of outrage from across the room but was silenced by Dean violently swatting him.
Hermione felt the charm working. She leaned in, close enough to Ginny that she could see her dark eyelashes. The redhead smelt faintly of wine and cinnamon. Suddenly Hermione pressed her lips against Ginny's. They were soft, almost as soft as Fleur's. Ginny hooked a hand behind her neck and deepened the kiss. There was a slamming sound and Hermione pulled back. She looked across the circle to see that Fleur had stood up from her chair and stormed out so suddenly that her chair had been knocked over.
"Sorry… I just wanted to see if she would get jealous," Ginny said with an apologetic smile. Hermione didn't know whether to thank her or curse at her, instead getting up and rushing out of the room after Fleur.
"Oi, its 'Mione's turn!" Ron bellowed drunkenly as Hermione left the room.
Hermione found Fleur in a small bedroom, presumably Neville's flatmate's, leaning against a wall with her hands over her face.
"Fleur?" Hermione asked tentatively, entering the room and closing the door behind her, "Are you okay?"
Fleur exhaled shakily, removing her hands from her face.
"What are you doing here?" Fleur asked in a small, defeated sounding voice. Hermione maintained a respectable distance, biting her lip.
"I'm sorry…" Hermione felt awkward, she didn't want to bring up the fact that Fleur was acting jealous, "I'm sorry Pansy did that stupid dare and got you to give her a lapdance. I know you would have hated that. It wasn't fair."
Fleur sighed heavily.
"Sometimes I feel like Pansy just doesn't get me… Like maybe she never will," Fleur admitted.
"Is that why you stormed out?" Hermione asked carefully, testing her luck. Fleur averted her eyes awkwardly.
"Are you… Is there something going on between you and Ginny?" Fleur asked quietly, "Is that why you've been spending more time with her lately?"
"No," Hermione answered with a reassuring smile, "I only have feelings for you. I was serious about waiting for you, Fleur."
Fleur reacted suddenly, immediately closing the gap between her and Hermione. She grabbed Hermione's face with both hands and pulled her in for a passionate kiss. Hermione felt Fleur's tongue slide gloriously over her own, sending a thrill through her body. But, before Hermione could move her arms to wrap around the blonde, Fleur pulled away abruptly. She touched her lips with her fingers, looking horrified.
"I-I'm sorry…" Fleur uttered, "This is so unfair to Pansy, to you…"
Hermione opened her mouth to say something but Fleur left the room in a rush, leaving Hermione standing alone, stunned.
The next morning, Hermione awoke with a throbbing headache. The room was spinning slightly and she felt incredibly nauseous. With a groan, she dragged herself out of her bed and threw the window open to let in some fresh sea air.
Dragging her hands through her knotted curls, Hermione's mind sluggishly dragged over the memories from the previous night. She blushed at the memory of Fleur getting jealous and then kissing her. Perhaps it would not take as long as she thought for Fleur to come around to taking a chance on her?
Hermione pulled on a dressing gown and lumbered out to the kitchen, craving a potion that could take the edge off her hangover. As she walked through the living room, there was a crack as Fleur apparated into the living room.
Fleur was pale and her hair was tousled. Her mascara was smudged downwards as if she had been crying and she was wearing the same clothes as she had been at Neville's party. Hermione was so shocked she paused in her tracks. She had never seen Fleur look even remotely out of control before, but now she looked like she had just had the most chaotic evening of her life.
"Are you okay?" Hermione asked, concerned, "Should I call Pansy?"
"No," Fleur said quietly, shaking her head, "Pansy and I are over."
Hermione flitted around the cottage nervously.
Fleur had showered and gone to nap in her room. She hadn't said anything more about what had happened with Pansy. But Hermione was unbearably curious. She wondered if they had broken up because of how Pansy had behaved at Neville's party... or because of the kiss between Fleur and Hermione.
Regardless, what Hermione was most curious about was whether this meant that Fleur was now ready to take a chance on her.
As Hermione's hangover ebbed, she cleaned the cottage. She cleared away her messy paperwork, stacked her books, swept the floors. She prepared lunch for two, but Fleur did not emerge from her room.
However, Hermione was nothing but patient. As the day stretched on, Hermione moved her focus to making a delicious dinner. This time, as she set the plates on the table, Fleur finally padded out to join her.
Fleur had completely regained her composure since Hermione had last seen her. She had showered and changed into comfortable clothes. She had brushed her long mane of platinum blonde hair to perfection. She had cleaned her face of every scrap of smeared makeup. She was looking carefully preened and impeccable, albeit still a little tired.
"Thanks for dinner, it smells amazing," Fleur said with a small smile, picking up her fork.
"No problem," Hermione replied, biting her lip, "So… How are you?"
"Better," Fleur said with the same small smile.
Hermione fidgeted between taking a bite and pushing the issue. She knew she should tread carefully, but she wanted to know. If nothing else, as confirmation that Fleur really was okay- the blonde had been in quite a state when she had arrived home.
"Erm… Do you want to talk about what happened with Pansy?" Hermione asked tentatively. Fleur sighed, pushing around the food on her plate.
"We had an argument," Fleur said finally, "I was really upset about how she had been behaving during the drinking games. She said that she wanted people to know that I was hers and… I just, I just thought that I was safe with her. But she put her own need to flaunt me in front of my needs."
"That's entirely understandable," Hermione nodded.
There was a long pause and they both ate their dinners in silence. Hermione looked up at Fleur again.
"You know, you've really been opening up lately… I think that has to be like the second or third time you have actually talked about feeling something," Hermione said with a lop sided smile. Fleur looked surprised for a moment before snorting.
"Shut up," Fleur laughed lightly.
"Don't worry, I won't tell anyone… Wouldn't want to ruin your Ice Queen reputation," Hermione continued in a lighthearted manner, before being swatted by Fleur.
"Anyway…" Fleur said, growing serious again, "I was thinking of returning to France. I feel like my head has been a mess lately and it would be good to see my family and spend some time with my sister."
"Oh… For how long?" was all Hermione could say. She fiddled with her cutlery. She was torn… She wanted the best for Fleur and wanted her to do whatever would make her the happiest and healthiest. But on the other hand, she couldn't bear the thought of the blonde slipping out of her life just as suddenly as she had slipped into it.
"I'm not sure," Fleur admitted, not looking up from her food.
Ginny was lying comfortably on the couch in her flat, balancing her wand on her nose aimlessly, when Hermione apparated in with a crack.
"Jesus, 'Mione!" Ginny yelped, jolting up so suddenly in her seat that her wand was flung to the floor.
"Sorry," Hermione said, flopping down onto the couch beside Ginny.
"You really need to start owling in advance… I could have been in the middle of something," Ginny moaned, retrieving her wand.
"Yeah, you sure looked busy," Hermione scoffed, running a hand distractedly through her curls.
"Okay, so I know why you're here," Ginny said, sitting up straighter in her seat, "Look, I'm sorry about snogging you at Neville's party. But come on… Something happened with Fleur, right? You were so funny after you came back from chasing her. Admit it, my plan to make her jealous worked!"
"Yes and no," Hermione sighed, "And I still haven't entirely forgiven you for springing that on me… But anyway, Fleur's decided she's going back to France."
"Permanently?!" Ginny gawked.
"She's not sure," Hermione said miserably, "She's on her way to the train station now. I honestly couldn't handle watching her pack up and leave."
"Ohh… 'Mione…" Ginny cocked her head to one side sympathetically, "You have it bad."
"I do," Hermione admitted, throwing her hands up in exasperation, "But what do I do? I've missed my chance for real now!"
"Hermione…" Ginny said, rubbing her temples, "I know you don't want to hear this… But maybe it's time for a grand gesture."
"I have made a grand gesture!" Hermione said defensively, "I've been cleaning the cottage and making her meals! I picked her flowers and put them in a vase!"
"Oh my God, you really are just like Harry and Ron…" Ginny groaned, rolling her eyes, "Those are nice gestures, sure. But it's not a sweep a lady off her feet gesture. That isn't coming out and saying exactly what you feel, throwing the ball in her court."
"Okay, fine," Hermione grumbled, crossing her arms, "Since you're the expert and you have all the schemes, what counts as a grand gesture?"
Ginny sighed, shaking her head.
"Listen up, Hermione," Ginny said with a grin, "It's not too late."
Fleur rubbed at her forehead before drawing her cloak closer around her. She was standing at the train station waiting for the train to arrive. She felt like she had been suffering from a permanent headache since the events of Neville's party. She couldn't believe things had got so out of hand.
A train hissed as it eased out of the station and began its journey, drawing Fleur's attention.
She had always loved the train back to France. It would travel on the ground for a portion of the trip before fantastically launching into the sky for the remainder of the journey.
Fleur readjusted her bag. It was magically expanded so she had been able to fit most of her belongings in it. She bit her lip, feeling conflicted about going home with no return date in mind.
But then her mind turned to her parents, Gabrielle, and the little schnauzer dogs at her parents' house. Her mood brightened and a small smile played at her lips. It would be comforting to be around her family again.
A whistle blew and the bright green train that Fleur was to take rolled into the station.
Fleur sighed, beginning to move through the jostling crowd, trying to ignore the ogling of some of the men around her.
"Fleur!" a voice rang out throughout the station and Fleur froze in her tracks. She recognised that authoritative voice anywhere.
The crowd parted with mutterings as Hermione Granger of the Golden Trio herself appeared. The crowd watched with building interest as the ordinarily reclusive celebrity approached the blonde part-Veela on the platform.
"Hermione?" Fleur was puzzled. Hermione had given her a wide berth while she had been preparing for her trip. She had assumed that she was upset at her for leaving and didn't want to see her.
"Fleur… Well, this is a little mortifying, but, I have to say something before you go," Hermione said breathlessly, her chocolate eyes focussing on Fleur like she was the only one in the world.
"Erm… Okay…" Fleur said cautiously, unsure if Hermione was about to vent her displeasure at her leaving.
"Fleur…" Hermione looked at the crowd self consciously before swallowing heavily and returning her focus to Fleur, "When I first moved to the seaside, it was to get away from all the fame and drama in my life. But the reason I stayed there… The real reason I stayed there, was so much more. You've become a huge fixture in my day-to-day. If you leave, there's going to be a giant void in my life and I honestly don't know what I'm going to do… I guess…. I guess what I'm saying is…" Hermione bit her lip awkwardly, "I respect that you're not ready to date. But even if we are only ever going to be just friends… I really need you in my life."
"Hermione…" Fleur said slowly, floored. Hermione had spoken at great length, on many occasions, about how much she loathed going near crowds since the war. Not just that, but loathed the public discovering anything remotely personal about her. But here she was, crowd be damned, insisting on telling Fleur her full feelings before she could get on the train.
"Fleur," Hermione interrupted, "Go to France, see your family, clear your head… But please. Please come back. Promise me that you will come back to me."
Hermione exhaled heavily. She had finally bared everything in front of Fleur. Her palms were drenched in sweat and her heart was thumping heavily in her chest. She watched Fleur nervously, waiting for a response.
Fleur finally, after what felt like an age, nodded slowly.
"I will come back."
Hermione closed the gap, throwing her arms around Fleur's waist and pulling her into a tight hug.
"I'll miss you, Fleur," Hermione whispered into Fleur's ear.
"I'll miss you too, Hermione," Fleur said softly.
The murmuring intensified and Hermione released Fleur, a light blush rising in her cheeks.
"Erm… I'll let you catch your train…" Hermione said awkwardly, mortification beginning to set in.
Fleur leaned in, kissing her softly on the cheek before withdrawing and heading onto the train.
Hermione sighed, turning around as flashbulbs began to go off. Of course, the crowd had alerted the ever-present press to her whereabouts. She frowned at the paparazzi and turned on the spot, apparating away.
Weeks later, Hermione was at the bar in the VIP area of a club, Ginny at her side, as they ordered another round of drinks for the group. Since her mortifyingly public confession to Fleur, she had become a little more desensitised to being out and about. She'd been attending parties more frequently, and now- in an extremely rare move- had finally accepted her friends' invitation to go out to bars and dance for a night. If nothing else, it would take her mind off the empty space in Shell Cottage.
"So, she's still not back?" Ginny asked Hermione, her voice loud to be heard over the music, "Are you sure you don't want to move into the spare room in my flat for a while? Must be lonely out there,"
"It is a bit lonely at times," Hermione admitted, "But she could come back at any time."
"Talkin' bout Fleur?" Ron bellowed, coming to lean at the bar beside them, "Saw the papers bout you confronting Fleur at the train station… And don't think I don't remember you admitting at Nev's that you got off with her while we were going out. Don't worry, I forgive ya."
Ron was grinning sleazily at Hermione and she rolled her eyes.
"Please, Ron," Hermione said, taking a generous sip of her strong drink. Ron smiled wider at her.
"Nah, I mean, I'm not saying it's a bad thing," Ron said, clearly thinking he was being supportive, "In fact… I'd love to see a reunion between you two,"
"Urgh, take a cold shower, Ron!" Ginny frowned with disgust, shoving Ron in the chest. He raised his hands in surrender.
"Hey, this VIP area is shit," Ron said, changing the subject, "Should we head out and dance in the main area?"
"With all the people who will just fawn over you, Hermione and Harry?" Ginny asked, unconvinced. Hermione shrugged, she was feeling the heavy effects of the alcohol and felt like dancing in a thick crowd of strangers to take her mind off Fleur. Her friends reminded her too much of the part-Veela and she was missing the blonde terribly.
"Great, let's go," Ron nodded, rounding up the others in the VIP area. Ron was still quite obnoxious in Hermione's opinion, but she had to admit she was quite relieved he was no longer harbouring ill feelings towards her.
Predictably, the drunk crowd in the main area of the club swarmed around the heroes of the Wizarding War, but Hermione no longer cared. The music was deafening, the lights were flashing brightly with the pulse of the beat, and the alcohol was taking her away from her problems.
She waded out into the crowd, dancing near Ginny, Harry and the others. She ignored Ron who had an arm wrapped around two girls that he was attempting to grind on at the same time. Hermione danced, tossing her hair over her shoulder as she moved with the rhythm of the crowd. Strangers were dancing closely to her and soon she had lost sight of the others.
For a moment she could forget.
Hermione felt arms wrap around her waist from behind. She hadn't minded the crowd dancing closely to her, but had no interest in somebody grinding on her. She whirled around before the person could get too much closer.
Hermione felt her stomach lurch suddenly, as her eyes locked with azure. Fleur Delacour was standing in front of her, her arms around Hermione's waist.
"Is this real?" Hermione uttered breathlessly. The music was pounding so loudly it was doubtful that Fleur could even hear her. Fleur, whether she had heard her or not, smiled before leaning in and pressing her lips against Hermione's.